Doug Glanville’s life experiences have helped countless Americans open up about race relations and shared humanity, but perhaps less known are his frequent and significant intersections with the Connecticut legal community.
In a conversation Thursday, the former Philadelphia Phillies veteran, author and baseball commentator reflected on some of the knowledge he’s gained and wisdom he’s shared, which he’ll convey in a public talk Nov. 14 at the University of St. Joseph in West Hartford.
Some West Hartford residents may wish to forget the infamous incident in the winter of 2014, in which Glanville was profiled by a West Hartford police officer while shoveling snow in his own driveway. The officer—out of his jurisdiction—demanded identification, and eventually the exchange ended up in a widely circulated piece Glanville wrote for The Atlantic, “I Was Racially Profiled in My Own Driveway.”
Early 2014 was barely the beginning of the national consciousness of incidents between police and black Americans. Glanville recalled that his experience with police, lawmakers and community members has been markedly positive. One outcome, for instance, was the enactment of a Connecticut state law that prohibits local police from crossing municipal borders to pursue suspected violations of town ordinances.
Glanville, whose wife Tiffany is an attorney and chairwoman of the Hartford Board of Education, said he never set out to punish anyone through the legal system. Instead, he met with friends, neighbors and public officials to learn and see what he could do to make improvements in light of his own experience.
“There was a lot of positive reaction but also some negative,” said Glanville, now a recurring columnist with the New York Times. “We had just moved here, and nobody knew me. There were editorials that were not all that flattering. I was this ESPN guy who had just dropped in and I was calling out the region. It wasn’t smooth sailing.”
And it wasn’t the only time Glanville has been profiled. At Los Angeles International Airport he was refused a taxi specifically because he is black, he says. Changes in the airport’s cab policies followed. And even in Johannesburg, South Africa, Glanville recalled he was detained in a bizarre incident in which some people who appeared to be French tourists at O.R. Tambo International Airport were pick-pocketing travelers and attempted to lay the blame on him.
But in addition to his successes on and off the field, Glanville has been fortunate to have some friends in law and government who have stood by him. With some guidance and dialogue, he was able to develop a strategy that focused on his natural ability to be open and friendly. He met with UConn School of Law dean Timothy Fisher and other professors at the school, along with his friend and neighbor, State Rep. Matt Ritter, an attorney who “was incredible,” Glanville said.
“He took a lot of time, made introductions and helped me understand the implications of engaging in and understanding a bill,” Glanville said.
Ritter, who took a moment away from his work as Connecticut’s current House Majority leader and the state’s controversial budget debate, discussed his friendship and work with Glanville Thursday.
“One of the things that was most frightening for me as a neighbor, and as a friend, was when Doug said to me how he felt how quickly the situation could have escalated and how he felt he had to respond. If someone came up to me and I was shoveling my own driveway, I can’t even imagine how rude I would be, and then it really clicks.”
Ritter said after it was decided a legislative approach was warranted, and they “got into the weeds” of a bill, some of his lawyering skills came in handy. “I consider myself a good lawyer, and the first rule of the law is not knowing the law is not an excuse. But there are different municipal ordinances in Wethersfield, West Hartford, Hartford and Rocky Hill. What are the different ordinances on solicitation? No one has any idea.”
The process, which included Ritter bringing up House Bill 6863 in the House Public Health Committee, resulted in the new law prohibiting “peace officers from pursuing an offender outside the peace officer’s precinct for the purpose of enforcing a municipal ordinance.” The bill was nicknamed the “Doug Glanville Bill.”
Another person who has become one of Glanville’s friends is former West Hartford Deputy Mayor Tim Brennan, also an attorney, who said he saw Glanville’s article in The Atlantic and “said holy cow, I want to hear this,” inviting the Glanvilles to speak to him about what happened.
“Doug and his wife were never interested in any legal recourse in terms of suing anybody,” Brennan said. “Doug is a person who is all about bringing people together and mending fences. But I think some folks in West Hartford may have assumed incorrectly that he was litigious, and that was not at all what he was about.”
Brennan said any discussion of such issues “takes two,” and that Glanville was ready to talk to anyone and everyone.
After the success of Doug Glanville Bill, last October Gov. Dannel Malloy appointed Glanville to the Connecticut Police Officer Standards and Training Council (POST), to continue discussing police and community-related issues.
“I like to create dialogue and take information and just be patient,” Glanville said. “This process was highly educational, and I think it yielded a good result.”
Majority Leader Ritter said he hasn’t heard of problems related to a police officer crossing town lines since the bill was enacted in 2015.
“I think what it did was put everyone on notice,” he said. “Sometimes the publicity of an incident is enough, but Doug did the hard work just codifying it.”
As far as any future incidents similar to Glanville’s, Ritter said, “I think it’s unlikely you’ll see something like that happen in the future.”