Today we meet Kenno Carlos. Once you meet him, you’ll never forget him. Many come across him when they walk into the building at 800 Howard Baker Jr. Ave., the home and headquarters of the Knoxville Police Department (KPD).
He’s a big man with a bigger smile, and under all of that is an even bigger heart.
For the past 26 years he has been a KPD officer. He spent his first 23 years on patrol, mostly in North Knoxville neighborhoods and streets. He’s in his third year as part of the department’s Teleserve Unit. The unit operates 24/7/365 and answers calls from the public for investigating/reporting via telephone property crimes, referrals and other information. Members of the unit also man the front door and the security check-ins.
Coming off patrol after more than two decades on the street was a little hard. “I’m not a quitter and it took me a long time to come off the street,” he explains. “I loved it out there. But I finally realized it was time. I was 51 and patrol is hard on your body and it’s for the younger guys.”
His family moved to Knoxville when he was just 3. “In my mind, I’m from Knoxville,” he says. He was one of seven kids. He has two sisters who still live here. “It’s my home forever.”
And when he looks at and speaks about young son Terrence, 10, that big smile expands. They are members at Greater Warner AME Zion.
One of the things you quickly find out about Carlos, beyond that world-class smile, is that he is a man of deep faith, a God-fearing man in and out of the uniform. “God’s been working on me for a long time,” he says. “He’s still working on me. I’m a project.” And then that smile explodes.
Here are some other need-to-know facts about this officer:
- Graduated from Austin-East High in 1984, and started at linebacker and offensive guard on the Roadrunners’ 1983 state championship team. He wore jersey number 50. He also threw the shot put and discus on the track team.
- U.S. Army veteran who was deployed during Desert Storm to the Kuwait and Iraq combat zone and was in Knoxville’s 844th Engineer Battalion.
- Member of the East Knoxville Lions Club and is called their “youngster” for being perhaps the youngest member.
- Mentors two young boys as part of the Knoxville chapter of “100 Black Men.” The group mentors boys from the second grade through high school.
- Attends KPD’s Overdose Family Group meetings monthly as a resource.
He has approached his police work as he approaches life. “I don’t really help people. God uses me to bless people. I’m in the blessing business. When I help someone, they don’t need to thank me. God has already done that for them. God sees everything. If I mistreat someone, it comes back on me. I’m very protective about people. I never want to see any harm or danger come to anyone. God wants fairness and understanding in this world and so do I. We all need to learn how to forgive.”
Scott Erland is the KPD communications manager. He shares a memory that is part and parcel in defining Carlos. “When I was coming in for my interview (he was 31) in March 2019 I’d never been to the KPD. Kenno was the first person I saw. I was very nervous, but Kenno was so encouraging and kind that he put me at ease. He calmed me down, was uplifting and I remember Kenno more than anything else from that day. I think he has that effect on a lot of people.”
KPD Chief Eve Thomas is another Kenno Carlos fan. “Officer Carlos has devoted his life to the Knoxville Police Department. His passion for service and infectious personality is a model for current and future generations of KPD officers.”
Tom King has served at newspapers in Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and California and has been the editor of two newspapers. He writes this Monday column – Our Town Heroes –for KnoxTNToday.com. Suggest future stories at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 865-659-3562.