BY CASH MICHAELS OF THE WILMINGTON JOURNAL
If you personally knew the N. C. Highway Patrol’s first African-American commander, the late Colonel Richard Holden, Sr., you know Colonel 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. From him, he learned those basic tenets of manhood and law enforcement.
“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 1600 troopers of the State Highway Patrol (SHP), Colonel Glenn McNeill now has that chance. In an exclusive interview, Colonel 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, Colonel 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 twenty-three 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. This has resulted 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 would be able to earn some trust and some credibility with those communities [where they happen],” Colonel McNeill says.
Born in Whiteville, Glenn McNeill graduated from Mount Olive College, with a degree in business management and organizational development and from UNCWilmington, 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. Colonel 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.
Having a mentor like Colonel 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 Colonel McNeill, so much so that, when he interviewed with Governor. 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 interview of me, a poor kid from Reidsville, N. C. I felt like I had already won, regardless of whom he ended up selecting,” Col. McNeill recalled, adding that he and Governor 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. He is committed to working with other law enforcement agencies to share information to reduce the flow of illegal drugs coming into the State. He is eager to assist in fighting domestic 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,” Colonel McNeill said, “to exceed his expectations.”