Police Advisory Commission head to step down
Menos will depart just weeks before Philadelphians vote Nov. 3 on a ballot question on whether to overhaul the commission, giving it more power to investigate abuse complaints against police officers.
Hans Menos, the executive director of the city’s Police Advisory Commission, announced Tuesday that he is leaving his post on Oct. 23.
Menos, who has led the civilian oversight agency for three years, will depart just weeks before Philadelphians vote Nov. 3 on a ballot question on whether to overhaul the commission, giving it more power to investigate abuse complaints against police officers. If the measure is approved, the new office would be called the Citizen Police Oversight Commission.
In an interview, Menos, 37, said his decision to leave was not prompted by the coming changes, but rather was because he found a new job as vice president of law enforcement initiatives at the Center for Policing Equity, a nationwide policy group that seeks to address racial disparities in law enforcement.
“I have an opportunity to join an organization that’s doing great work on a national scale," he said. "I would have liked to have stayed to usher the PAC into its next form and help guide that process. I support that in any way possible.”
Menos said he supports the overhaul, which he said would give the commission expanded powers to investigate police misconduct.
City Councilmember Curtis Jones Jr. sponsored the legislation that put the commission overhaul question on the ballot. At a June Council hearing Jones said that the independence of the new agency would be key, so that its leaders can make decisions without "fear for their jobs and the future of their commission.”
The commission currently forwards complaints against to police to Internal Affairs but does not investigate the complaints, Menos said.
The new structure of the commission and its powers will be determined after the November vote.
"That is something that I understand that City Council and the citizens of the city want to see done differently, similar to how it’s done in New York, Chicago, and New Orleans,” Menos said.
Anthony Erace, the commission’s deputy executive director, will serve as acting executive director. Erace served more than eight years as an investigator in the Philadelphia Office of the Inspector General.
The commission, created in 1994, is the civilian oversight agency for the Philadelphia Police Department. Critics have complained that the commission has little authority.
Ronda Goldfein, a commission member since 2010 and chair since 2012, praised Menos' leadership and said she is hopeful the successor commission would be better funded and have greater access to Police Department information.
“We had great leadership with Hans and he and his staff had worked on a lot of important projects, but we need more resources and access to information. We just need a whole lot more to be truly effective,” she said. “Otherwise we’re just treading water.”
The seven-person commission staff has a budget of $540,000, a 20% reduction from last fiscal year due to the coronavirus shutdown, she said.
“One of the ideas is to tag the civilian oversight budget to that of the Police Department," she said. "We have such an out-of-scale relationship with small, poorly funded oversight of the very large, well-funded police department. There has to be some scale between them. Tagging the budget of oversight to the police department has worked in other cities.”
The PAC budget is less than one-tenth of 1% the size of the $727 million Police Department budget — a small amount compared with other large U.S. cities, which allot several million dollars to police oversight annually.
“Philadelphia does not need to reinvent the wheel on civilian oversight," she said. “Lots of good models to choose from and the PAC is committing to help City Council work through those models and implement that one that works the best.”