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Memphis Hires Durham Police Chief C.J. Davis

Durham police chief C.J. Davis testifies during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.
Tom Williams
Pool CQ Roll Call, via AP
In this June 16, 2020 file photo, Chief Cerelyn "C.J." Davis, president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and Chief of Police of the Durham, N.C., Police Department, testifies during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on police use of force and community relations on on Capitol Hill in Washington.

After serving Durham for five years as its police chief, C.J. Davis is leaving the Bull City.

On Monday, it was announced by the City of Memphis, Tennessee, that Davis had been hired as its new chief of police. She is the first woman to lead the department, according to the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland announced the appointment of Davis on YouTube. She is expected to be confirmed in May by the city council.

“She’s the right person to lead this department here in Memphis,” Strickland said. “She has an outstanding career in law enforcement as an officer and as a leader. She has a strategic vision for reducing violent crime and she has a record of building relationships with the communities she serves. So, I’m excited about this appointment.”

Memphis made it known that Davis interviewed and was a finalist for the job earlier this month.

During the broadcast on YouTube where the announcement was revealed, Deidre Malone – the CEO of the Carter Malone Group who served as a host during the announcement – pointed out that Davis was one of the last people to enter the candidate pool for the job. She was chosen over several local candidates and others from around the country.

“All the candidates talked about reducing crime and their record; they’re all great police officers,” Strickland said. “But Chief Davis, I think, has a unique quality. She was near the very top of the Atlanta Police Department… And then ran a department in Durham and was really, frankly, the only candidate who ran a department during the pandemic.”

Durham City Manager Wanda Page said that Davis informed her of her resignation on Sunday. It is effective on June 11.

“While I am sad to see her leave, I am excited for the next chapter of her extraordinary career,” Page said. “Her five-year tenure in Durham has been transformative.”

Page noted that Davis created two new sworn positions within Durham’s police department: the Hispanic Outreach Liaison Officer and the LGBTQ Liaison Officer. Both positions are aimed at improving relationships with those communities. Page also added that an interim police chief will be named “in the coming days” and the search for a new police chief is a “high priority” that could take between 60 to 120 days.

Davis was hired in Durham in April 2016 after serving as the Deputy Chief of Atlanta’s police department. She has been in law enforcement for more than 35 years. She garnered national attention last year when she called for police reform following the death of George Floyd. On ABC’s Good Morning America, she said, “there have been years and years of systemic racism in law enforcement.” Davis was previously the president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives.

In Memphis, Davis will replace Michael Rallings, who is retiring this month.

The Commercial Appeal notes that Memphis’ police department has “struggled to retain officers and is operating below its budgeted complement” and saw a record 332 homicides last year.

On Monday, Davis called her appointment in Memphis a “career achievement.”

“I have a great appreciation for the city of Memphis,” Davis said. “I know the history of Memphis… I have the opportunity to lead a large agency, which I feel like I’m qualified to do.”

Mitchell Northam is a Digital Producer for WUNC. His past work has been featured at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, SB Nation, the Orlando Sentinel and the Associated Press. He is a graduate of Salisbury University and is also a voter in the AP Top 25 poll for women's college basketball.
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