City leaders excited for potential of new MPD chief’s approach to violent crime

Updated: Apr. 19, 2021 at 6:01 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The selection of Cerelyn “CJ” Davis by Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland to head the Memphis Police Department is being met with excitement from various organizations, as it pertains to the potential of violent crime reduction in the Bluff City.

“I was very impressed with her, in terms of her ability to articulate her priorities,” said Memphis Shelby Crime Commission President Bill Gibbons.

Davis has a proven record in her ability to reduce violent crime from her time as Police Chief in Durham, NC.

In five years in Durham, violent crime went down dramatically under Davis’s supervision, most notably by nearly 15% in 2018.

“Aside from violent crimes, our use of force numbers for our department and complaints from citizens and residents about use of force were down, as well,” said Durham City Councilor Mark-Anthony Middleton, who was on the selection committee that brought Davis to Durham in 2016.

In Monday’s sit-down interview with Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, which was posted on the city’s YouTube page, Davis laid out her approach toward violent crime.

“You have to look at your aggravated assaults just as seriously as you do your homicides because your aggravated assaults mean someone fired a weapon at somebody, meaning someone got lucky that they’re not a homicide victim,” said Davis.

“She really seems to understand the importance of tackling that aspect of our violent crime problem,” Gibbons said in response to that. “It’s really the aggravated assaults that are driving our violent crime rates that continue to put us in the lead among American cities.”

Davis said in the video interview that her mission for MPD is to accomplish proper staffing, morale and community relations, saying that crime-fighting needs to be approached holistically and that partnering with the community is how MPD can achieve that approach.

“Not just in neighborhoods but also with city organizations and businesses,” said Davis. “Everybody needs to play a part in community policing.”

While there may be skepticism from some on Davis’s selection, both Gibbons and Middleton spoke on what they’ve already seen in Davis and what they hope to see if she’s confirmed by the city council.

“She’s going to really need to immerse herself in the community and immerse herself in the department itself, but I know she’s going to do that and really start to get a feel for the community and try to help move us in the right direction,” said Gibbons.

“If she does half of what she did in Durham there in Memphis, I think very soon folks are going to realize that you have a very different and special kind of leader in Chief Davis,” said Middleton.

Davis’s last day with Durham PD is June 11.

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