Mayor tabs Granitz as next chief
Allentown native and longtime city officer ‘has a way of getting through’ to people
As Allentown community organizers and other residents over a violent summer criticized police leadership for failing to engage the city’s most troubled neighborhoods, they routinely held up police Capt. Glenn E. Granitz Jr. as not just an exception, but as the ideal candidate to lead the department.
Granitz has been a nearconstant presence at community events and crime watch meetings in recent years, especially those in the city’s most violent neighborhoods.
Those calling for the ouster of Chief Tony Alsleben, who left the force on Friday, frequently demanded Granitz’s promotion to the position in the next breath.
Now they have their man. Sparking a loud ovation from dozens of residents and community leaders in attendance, Mayor Ray O’Connell at a news conference Wednesday nominated Granitz for the permanent chief position and named him interim chief ahead of his confirmation hearing, which the mayor said will occur sometime in the next 30 days. The 18-year veteran of the police department is the city’s fifth top cop in four years.
Addressing the standingroom only crowd at City Hall, Granitz, the 40-year-old son of a former Allentown police captain, said he was humbled by the number of people in attendance, nearly all of whom he recognized.
“This is a reminder of what Allentown has been for me, what Allentown continues to be and what we will be,” Granitz said.
Granitz pledged to better communicate with the public as chief and increase the department’s social media presence. He committed to creating a community policing program with a gun violence reduction initiative within the next year.
He emphasized that as an Allentown resident he is fully engaged in the city. Allentown’s police chief is required to live in the city, but the department’s more than 200 other members are not. Granitz lives near William Allen High School with his wife and three children.
Granitz said a career in the police department felt preordained. His first birthday party was thrown at the Allentown Police Academy, and he grew up with a K-9 named Fritz.
“I was one of those kids who always knew what I was going to do,” he said. “But I never thought I’d be chief.”
As O’Connell introduced his selection, he was interrupted multiple times by applause and chants of Granitz’s name, an enthusiastic reception uncharacteristic of city news conferences.
O’Connell repeatedly said Granitz is prepared for the new role, but also cautioned residents to be realistic.
“It is easy to assume that change, especially the change we fight for, will result in immediate improvement in the city of Allentown,” O’Connell said. “The reality is this won’t just happen overnight. Change takes time.”
Granitz will need at least four of seven City Council members to vote in favor of his confirmation.
Six have said they would support him, and stood alongside O’Connell during his announcement.
Councilman Daryl Hendricks, a retired Allentown police captain, praised Granitz for both his community involvement and for earning the respect of subordinates through his investigative and leadership abilities.
Councilman Courtney Robinson said that since early August, he’s received considerably more community feedback on who deserves the chief position than on any other issue during his 21 months on council, including this year’s 27% property tax increase.
“Never have I seen such overwhelming, crossover support for a candidate as I’ve seen for Granitz,” Robinson said.
Council President Roger MacLean, who led the department from 2006 to 2013, was the only member of council who did not attend the news conference. He had a prior commitment, he said Wednesday afternoon.
MacLean said he’s withholding his thoughts on Granitz’s nomination until the confirmation hearing, “as I would with any other nomination,” but wished Granitz well in the interim.
Granitz is a compassionate and levelheaded leader who thrives at mediating conflict and deescalating intense situations involving either kids or adults, said Millie Canales, a community activist and president of the Old Fairgrounds Neighborhood Association who campaigned for Alsleben’s ouster.
“He has a way of getting through to you,” she said of Granitz. “You forget that you’re speaking to an officer.”
O’Connell said he interviewed five police captains for the chief position and sought input from assistant chiefs Gail Struss (who declined the position before Alsleben accepted) and Stephen Vangelo.
Granitz graduated from Central Catholic High School before earning his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia and a master’s degree in criminal justice administration from the University of Cincinnati.
He started his career as an Allentown police officer in November 2001, and was named a detective in 2005, the city’s most violent year with a record number of homicides.
His work as an investigator led to being assigned in 2008 to work with the Lehigh County District Attorney’s Homicide Task Force, a collection of experienced detectives tasked with solving killings.
As part of the task force, Granitz worked on a number of Allentown homicides, including the 2008 mistaken-identity killing of a 22-year-old man at his college graduation party on North Ninth Street. He also worked on a number of cold cases, including the 2003 murder of a man during a large fight outside the 7-Eleven at Seventh and Linden streets.
The case went five years without an arrest until 2008 when he and Allentown police Capt. Bill Lake re-interviewed witnesses and charged a man who later pleaded guilty to third-degree murder.
In 2010, Granitz was promoted to detective sergeant with the Criminal Investigations Division where he supervised investigators working criminal cases.
After eight years working in criminal investigations, Granitz was selected in 2013 to lead both the Youth Division and the Community Services Division, where he helped to enhance the programs and activities offered to the city’s youth.
He was promoted to lieutenant in May 2016, and named a captain assigned to Center City in August 2017.
Granitz meets weekly with community groups such as Promise Neighborhoods of the Lehigh Valley and serves as the police department’s representative for both Upside Allentown and the Hamilton Main Street Program. He has also made a habit of walking neighborhoods victimized by violence. Earlier this summer, he returned to North Ninth Street to talk with residents about their concerns the day after a woman, who was the unintended target of a driveby shooting, was shot in the back.
Granitz is O’Connell’s second police chief pick since he was appointed interim mayor in March 2018. O’Connell named Alsleben interim chief that April following the departure of Chief Glen Dorney.
But some on council criticized Alsleben’s ascension from the outset. Both elected officials and residents have called Alsleben a poor communicator and not visible enough in the community — criticism that intensified when nearly 30 people were shot in the city in June and July.
O’Connell decided in early August that Alsleben should shed his interim status, giving council the opportunity to vote in mid-September on his confirmation. O’Connell vowed to support the 19-year veteran, but a majority of council members made it known that they would reject his nomination.
On Aug. 12, Alsleben announced he would leave the department effective Sept. 6.
O’Connell on Wednesday praised Alsleben’s tenure, noting the drop in overall crime and his creation of a roving platoon focused on high-crime areas at high-crime times.
Later, O’Connell said he didn’t have any regrets over how the last few months played out politically.
“The bottom line is we’ve all taken positions where we’re out there in the forefront. People are going to take some shots at you, and you have to respond accordingly,” he said. “Tony was a fine chief, and he is a better person, and I wish him well going forward.”
Councilwoman Candida Affa said that she believes Alsleben was unfairly criticized and fears the community will have unreasonable expectations of Granitz. As the department is structured, captains serve as the face of the police force, and Granitz will be hard-pressed to remain as visible as he is now while handling a slew of other duties, she said.
Council Vice President Julio Guridy said O’Connell was wise to select Granitz given the community’s comfort with him.
“Some people want to believe he will fix everything, but this won’t guarantee an end to the shootings,” Guridy said. “Still, the relationships he’s built with people so far, that counts for a lot.”
The selection comes less than eight weeks ahead of a city election. O’Connell faces Republican Tim Ramos in the mayoral race. Ramos has also expressed support for Granitz.
“In 17 months, this is the mayor’s first step in the right direction,” Ramos said Wednesday. “Granitz grew up here, a few blocks from where I did, and that alone gives him a different perspective about the community.”
Granitz said he’s thought a lot over the past few days about how to manage his time and the community’s expectations. He’ll continue to be visible in the community as chief in spite of his increased workload, but will also delegate some of the department representation to the next Center City captain and the present captains, he said.
He also believes the community expects transparency and visibility more than reassurance and instantaneous change.
“Getting to know the community isn’t saying yes to everything all the time,” Granitz said. “It’s establishing enough trust so that, when you have to say no or something other than what they want to hear, they still believe you care.”
Morning Call reporter Andrew Wagaman can be reached at 610-820-6764 or awaga[email protected]
Glenn E. Granitz Jr., left, nominated for permanent chief, gives a fist bump to Millie Canales on Wednesday during a ceremony at Allentown City Hall. Granitz also was named as interim chief ahead of his confirmation hearing, which will occur sometime in the next 90 days.