Durham's new police chief Patrice Andrews: 'I am optimistic. I am a realist, as well.'

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Durham's new police chief Patrice Andrews was selected after a nationwide search that whittled 29 potential candidates down to a field of four finalists.

"I did not and do not have a deciding hand in me being selected," she said, responding to critics who say the process should have involved more community input. "But what I can say is that our community may know and trust that I am very engaged and very committed to reaching out to all of our community stakeholders....And I do believe that there are some critical discussions that need to be had and need to occur."

Andrews, who started her career with the Durham Police Department as a patrol officer in 1997, advanced to district commander and captain before leaving for the police chief position in Morrisville.

WATCH: Full interview with Chief Andrews
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Newly appointed Durham Police Chief Patrice Andrews talks about what needs to be done in the city.



Now, five years later, she said on Tuesday: "In Morrisville, I was able to be out and be available, and have anyone approach me and I do the same. So I have no qualms about that at all, because I really do believe that that's how we get to a point in our community but also in our profession where we really start to shift how we are viewed as law enforcement professionals, but also to how we view those that we serve in the community."

She returns to Durham as the city faces several challenges. There's concern about safety as more people move to the Bull City and people who don't live there tell others that Durham is dangerous.

"I will tell you I don't know that there's any one big challenge," she said. "But there are several things that we will have to address, almost at the same time. Our retention efforts in recruiting, as well as our violent crime rate, particularly homicides, and really just looking at overall how we are engaging with our entire community, and making sure that our officers also feel that engagement as well."

There's a budgetary consideration," she added. "We do have to have discussions with officers to find out, is it just pay? Are there other other reasons that drive you to leaving, you know, not just the police department, but are you leaving the profession? So we can't dismiss that those things are happening. But I will tell you as I get further acclimated, we will be addressing and looking at some of those issues of concern."

Shots fired, like those that rang out as North Carolina Central University's football team opened its 2021-2022 season, have that school's chancellor and others calling for the use of an app called Shot Spotter. It's a surveillance system that determines the location of gunfire.

"I am certainly not opposed to potentially utilizing ShotSpotter," said Andrews. "Not opposed to that, but I do need to be able to assess what is it that we are doing right now. Are there other alternatives as well for for our city?"

She's returning to Durham at a time when women control vital services in the city. Andrews is the third woman and the second Black woman police chief in Durham. Along with the city manager and the front runner in next month's mayoral election, she's in a position of power.

"As women, we are really uniquely placed in these positions, because we have the ability to be to be empathetic. We have the ability to maybe see things from a different point of view, a different perspective than maybe our male counterparts. And that's okay. I think different perspectives are important as we move forward to solving some really tough, tough issues," she said.

"I know that that we have a road ahead of us," she added. "I am optimistic. I am a realist as well. And I know that in order for us to move forward, we do have to engage in a whole spectrum of ways and we have to engage our entire community. And so I want our residents, or visitors, people that work here, to really be able to start to see the things that we might be asking you to do. We might be asking you to step out of your comfort zone and meet us where we are and we'll meet you where you are, so that we can make some great things happen for Durham. She's beautiful. Durham is one of the most amazing diverse and inclusive and vibrant communities in the state of North Carolina, and that's what I want her to be known for when people talk about Durham."
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