Cassandra Deck-Brown's Background
Newly appointed Raleigh Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown is a North Carolina native who grew up in rural Franklin County.
"I grew up in the church and it was about giving back and about service," said Deck-Brown. "So that was instilled in me at an early age."
She was one of three children who grew up in 4-H, tending to the family's garden, and giving out the fruits of their labor to fellow community members in need.
She knew she wanted to serve her community somehow. So she went to East Carolina University where she majored in criminal justice. But she didn't realize she wanted to be a police officer until she visited her grandparents out of state and witnesses a female police officer in action in their neighborhood.
"I was very impressed by what I saw," said Deck-Brown
That impression steered her into her chosen field, and when she graduated in 1987, she began working for the Raleigh Police Department.
As for her being a woman working her way up through the ranks over the years, she credits her success, in part, to other women within the department who broke the glass ceiling before her.
"Mind you women started out as meter maids in the Raleigh Police Department and became officers over time," said Deck-Brown. "I have stood on the shoulders of those women who have made the path a little easier for me."
Deck-Brown says those women allowed her to prove herself based on her own merits. But as a woman, does she think she'll bring anything in particular to the table?
"As a woman, as a mother, I think we just see things differently at times," she said. "We hear things and perceive things and respond to them differently. What I do bring to the position is the opportunity for other young females to see that this is an attainable position."
And at the end of the day, she says she ultimately sees herself as someone who has years of experience behind her and she feels she brings her own personal strengths to the job as a result of that.
So what does the new police chief like to do in her spare time?
"Friends, family, support, that's important," said Deck-Brown. "I love to travel. I'm a very crafty person at times. So when I get a free moment, I'll sew periodically. We've got two grandsons, Joshua and Josiah and they are a handful but they bring much joy to you."
She also likes to cook, and says she makes some mean devilled eggs.
She's also an active member of her church, St. Ambrose Episcopal Church in Southeast Raleigh. She still acts as a mentor to girls at the Raleigh Police Department's charm school. She is also a former Girl Scout leader.
Goals for the Future
We asked her about some issues that seem to be plaguing Raleigh, namely teen violence and domestic violence, and she agreed these are problems she's focused on.
"We have seen a spike in some of our crime and violent crime and offenders have been younger than you typically expect," said Deck-Brown.
She says the department has a very strong youth and family services program that tries to engage with youth throughout the community, but she wants to expand on that.
"I really want to take a look at what our programs are actually doing," she said. "How we can expand on them and enhance what we're doing to reach even more of our youth."
She says we as a community need to strengthen families so the right values are instilled in youth today. Although programs are showing success reaching out to many high-risk teens, there are still too many who are falling through the cracks.
"We still have to find a way to reach out and divert those others," said Deck-Brown. "That involves the faith-based community, that involves the public sector the private sector. That involves law enforcement agencies working together."
Deck-Brown sees this as a continuation of the policies set in place by former Chief Harry Dolan, under whom she served as deputy chief.
"These are goals and strategies that I was a part of enhancing and creating as a major as a captain as a deputy chief," she said. "So to some degree, we are building on that but we are also looking at how we expand."
Another issue she wants to tackle, domestic violence. Again, she plans to combat this with community outreach.
"It's a concern and it's a national concern too when you look at the statistics regarding domestic violence," said Deck-Brown. "Dealing with domestic violence begins with awareness and an understanding that that cycle has to be broken."
And what about the issue of violence in schools and the need for greater security?
"I think you have to look at more than just deciding you want a guard at the school," she said. "I think you have to look at where school violence has evolved and it's a mental health issue."
She says she wants to see preventative measures looking at mental health issues contributing to recent violence like at Sandy Hook and the Colorado movie theater shooting.
She says while armed guards could help, more needs to be done to address the root of the problem.
"We can't be shortsighted as a community to believe that one guard or having a gun at a school is going to solve the greater issue," said Deck-Brown. "Often these individuals are not at the school. They are coming to the school, but it's understanding the mental health issues much earlier on. "