New HP commander seeks to build stronger ties
McNeill has links to W-S area
BY CASH MICHAELS
FOR THE CHRONICLE
If you personally knew the N.C. Highway Patrol’s first African-American commander, the late Col. Richard Holden Sr., then you know Col. Glenn McNeill today, that agency’s newest leader.
Humble but strong, principled and devoted to service, it is no accident that McNeill asked Holden, one of the first blacks to become a state trooper, to be his mentor many years ago, and learned those basic tenets of manhood, and law enforcement, from him.
“I loved that man,” McNeill says. “When he walked into a room, you knew he was in charge. I looked up to him the way he carried himself, the way he loved his family, and how active he was in the community. To sit in an office that he once occupied … I’m humbled by this experience and having this opportunity, but I just don’t think I’m worthy.”
“If I end up being half the colonel that he was,” McNeill continued, “I will consider that to be a blessed tenure.”
As of last Friday when he was sworn-in as the new commander of the 1,600 troopers of the State Highway Patrol (SHP), Col. Glenn McNeill now has that chance. In an exclusive interview. Col. McNeill pledged to lead a patrol that looks like the citizenry it’s sworn to protect and serve.
“One of the things that will be a priority in my administration is our retention, and our recruitment of more females and minorities, with the ultimate goal of the Highway Patrol working toward representing and looking like the population in our state,” McNeill said.
Acknowledging that historically there has been tension between African-Americans and law enforcement, Col. McNeill pledges that under his watch, stronger efforts will be made to improve community outreach and understanding. Priority One, he says, is “knowing the people that we’re serving.”
What has made building bridges of understanding harder to accomplish in recent years, McNeil continued, is that unlike 23 years ago when he first joined the SHP stationed in Durham County, there is a greater strain on law enforcement resources now more than ever before, resulting in a greater demand on resources. One of those resources is time, and having enough of it for community outreach.
“Well, our members are so busy now, that [community outreach] hasn’t been a priority because we’re so busy running call to call,” McNeill noted. That must now change so that officers take the time to build relationships, and ultimately personal and professional capital, in the areas of the state that they patrol. As other law enforcement agencies have shown, doing so helps to create healthy partnerships between police and citizens in communities that need them the most.
It also helps when there are “high-risk” incidents, like the fatal shooting of a gun-wielding motorist last Friday in Durham County by a state trooper after a high speed chase. The State Bureau of Investigation is probing that incident now.
“If we made investments in those communities before those high risk incidents occurred, then we are able to earn some trust and some credibility with those communities [where they happen],” Col. McNeill says.
Born in Whiteville, Glenn McNeill graduated from Mount Olive College with a degree in Business Management and Organizational Development, and UNC-Wilmington with a degree in criminal justice.
He joined the SHP in 1994 as a trooper in Durham County, later serving in the Special Operations Section, and as a troop commander. Col. McNeill most recently served as director of training for the SHP since 2014.
He graduated from the FBI National Academy in 2015 as a distinguished graduate.
Col. McNeill grew up in Reidsville, and has ties to the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County area, where he spent weekends as a youth. Cedric Russell, owner of Russell Funeral Home, is Co.l McNeill’s brother-in-law, and Lita Russell is his sister–in-law. McNeill did have an aunt and uncle in nearby Tobaccoville while he was growing up, and spent a lot of time in the village of Pfafftown motocross riding.
Having a mentor like Col. Richard Holden –who joined the SHP in 1969, taking command in 1999, and then retiring in 2004 after 35 years of service, passing at the age of 67 in 2014 – has certainly molded Col. McNeill, so much so that when he interviewed with Gov. Roy Cooper for the job, he was honored just to be considered.
“I shared with our governor when I broke the threshold of his office door that I wasn’t worthy to occupy any of his time, and for him to conduct an inter-view of me – a poor kid from Reidsville, North Carolina – I felt like I had already won regardless of who he ended up selecting,” Col. McNeill recalled, adding that he and Gov. Cooper had very similar ideas regarding “wanting our state to be safe, and state troopers being ambassadors of the state because we are the largest, most recognized state agency in North Carolina.”
The new SHP commander says he and his force are committed to the safety of the traveling public, and working with other law enforcement agencies to share information to reduce the flow of illegal drugs coming into the state, assisting in fighting domes-tic and foreign terrorism, and expanding on motor carrier enforcement to maintain the 78,000 miles of highway they cover.
“I told the governor that I will work tirelessly,” Col. McNeill said, “to exceed his expectations.”