FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- Fayetteville leaders announced Wednesday that Kemberle Braden will take over as Chief of Police from Gina Hawkins who is retiring.
City Manager Doug Hewett made the announcement during a news conference at 10 a.m.
Braden is a Fayetteville native and started working for the police department as an officer in 1996.
"I'm extremely thankful for this opportunity to continue to serve the residents of Fayetteville which I have called home for more than 45 years," Braden said. "I look forward to bringing what I have learned throughout my career to lead the police force as those have done before me."
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Throughout the years, Braden was promoted several times and served in various areas of the police department as a sergeant, lieutenant, captain, major, and most recently as an assistant chief of police in May.
Braden's approach to designing the future of the Fayetteville Police Department will be in consultation with the community and with his colleagues.
He said his first steps as Chief of Police will be to outline strategic plans to meet Fayetteville's needs. He expects those plans will include steps to address recruitment and retention in the department as well as lowering the violent-crime rate.
The newly selected chief also said he'll be reviewing the department's research on homicides and mental health to improve its response and outline best practices for the future.
"It's not just my vision for the department. It's going to be the vision of the employees of the Fayetteville Police Department, it's going to be the vision of city management. And it's going to be the vision of the community," Braden said. "So I'm willing to prepare to have those conversations and take that in a direction that we all can agree upon."
Hawkins, who has been with the department since August 2017, spoke at the news conference. She said the entire community should be proud to have Braden take over the department. She said she was personally proud and felt the city was in good hands going into its next chapter.
The city used an external search firm to identify and screen candidates. After multiple rounds of interviews, the city said it believed Braden is the correct person to take over and lead the department.
Hewett described the vetting and interviewing process as intense but said it gave them a result that they're very excited about.
"Making an internal hire exemplifies how well we cultivate and nurture talent from within," Hewett said.
Braden has received several awards and honors including the Police Purple Heart in 2002 and was named Officer of the Year in 2002.
He has a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy Leadership Development course, and the Police Executive Research Forum Senior Management Institute for Police. He also earned a certificate from the N.C. Advanced Law Enforcement Program.
"Throughout the entire process, Chief-Select Braden has shown us his authenticity, professionalism, leadership, desire to serve and dedication to our City and this police department," Hewett said. "I am confident in his ability to lead the Fayetteville Police Department into the future with innovation and collaboration."