Durham's new police chief plans to be visible leader

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New Durham Police Chief Cerelyn "CJ" Davis.

New Durham Police Chief Cerelyn "CJ" Davis held her first news conference with reporters Monday and said she plans to be a highly visible leader in the community.

"I see the need to be visible here. I see myself being very accessible. I've already attended a local church yesterday because I just wanted to feel the community and feel connected to an environment that I will one day be a part of," she said. "I have taken time on my own to drive the streets of Durham without an escort in some of those areas that I've heard about only so I could see for myself as a citizen what the citizens are experiencing."

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Cerelyn "CJ" Davis

Davis takes command on June 6, but she's already in town house hunting.

The new chief has her work cut out for her. Robberies and recent violent crimes, especially shootings - some fatal - have people in Durham demanding action.

"It is alarming especially for communities of this size," she said.

In her comments Monday, Davis called the numbers "alarming," and said she plans to immediately start building community relationships to do something about it.

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New Durham Police Chief Cerelyn Davis takes questions.

The City will being releasing its quarter Crime Report on Monday evening at the City Council meeting.

Homicides are up from the same time last year. There have been 16 murders so far in 2016.

Davis wants a thorough analysis done on the crimes to see what course of action to take next.

"Sometimes you have to bring in the ATF because you've got gun violence. Sometimes you have to enhance your gang tasks force and put together more strategic sort of laser focus types of strategies to go after individual," she said.

Davis called plans to immediately start building community relationships to do address the violent crime.

"I believe the men and women of this department are committed to facilitating internal change so desperately needed for organizational success," said Davis.

Durham leaders say they hope the new chief's leadership and enforcement ideas can drive the crime numbers down.

"I think she's going to bring a tremendous amount of passion to public service, a lot of energy around community exchange," said Durham City Manager Thomas Bonfield. "I think she's going to be a pretty tireless leader...not just for the first couple of weeks she's on the job but for a long time."

Davis is already looking at what her legacy will be in this job.

"I feel that my legacy here should be one of inclusion, one of change for a positive direction, one of strong committed relationships with the community we serve - I would like for every Durham police officer to be well received in any community forum that they enter. It should not be a hostile environment," she said.

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New Durham Police Chief Cerelyn Davis takes questions.

Monday, Davis also addressed questions about her past. She was demoted and fired from the Atlanta Police Department in 2008 after allegations that she told detectives not to investigate the husband of an officer charged with possession of child porn. She appealed that decision and was reinstated after a review board overturned her termination due to problems with the testimony of an officer.

Davis said she saw the episode as her responsibility to stand up for what is right when faced with an untruth - something she would do with a fellow officer or a member of the community.

"I stand on my reputation as a person of integrity, and as a person who you will see - and this community will see - is fully invested in making sure that we have a police department that one day will be a national model," she said.

Asked about her philosophy on low-level drug crimes - which have sent so many young African American men to prison - Davis said she will not put her officers in the position of choosing what laws to enforce.

"When we have marijuana laws on the books, we enforce those laws in the city of Atlanta. We don't ask our officers to deviate from what is city ordinance. If the city ordinance needs to be changed, then we look at talking to those legislators to make the necessary changes, but we don't put our officers in precarious situations," she explained.

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New Durham Police Chief Cerelyn Davis takes questions

Davis said she is committed to the concept of community policing and her entire department will be too.

"It means customer service. It means speaking. It means insuring that that community is involved in problem solving, decision making. It means much more in the face engagement as opposed to just responding to crimes," she explained.


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