Mayor tabs Granitz as next chief

Al­len­town na­tive and long­time city of­fi­cer ‘has a way of get­ting through’ to peo­ple

The Morning Call - - FRONT PAGE - By An­drew Waga­man, Manuel Gamiz Jr. and Emily Opilo

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]

Granitz

RICK KINTZEL/THE MORN­ING CALL

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.

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