Memphis police chief appointee says violent crime one of her top priorities

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Just one day after being named the mayor’s choice to take over as Memphis police chief, Cerelyn “CJ” Davis spoke one-on-one with News Channel 3, addressing some of the most crucial issues she’ll face while running the department.

Davis says she’s excited to join the Memphis community, but also admits she’s coming in with an open mind. Her first priority is simply trying to learn.

Davis has decades of law enforcement experience, in cities like Atlanta and Durham – but none in Memphis. She understands some officers may be wary of an outsider taking over the department, but hopes her perspective could be helpful.

“We have to learn from each other. So, even in my current organization, I’m constantly checking to see what other agencies are doing so I can improve,” Davis said. “Outside perspective is very helpful. that doesn’t mean the memphis police department is doing anything wrong.”

Davis also understands the department’s recent struggle with recruitment.

“The recruitment process has to be an aggressive process that’s ongoing, that never stops or slows down,” she said.

Davis is well-versed in the residency issue that has plagued MPD and local government. She’s says her department in Atlanta had a 20-mile residency requirement for officers, while her current department in Durham offers incentives and financial bonuses for moving into city limits.

At this point, Davis is still undecided on what route to take in Memphis, but the idea of operating at a deficit is one she hopes to face head on.

“You always have attrition, no matter what,” she said. “You have to have an aggressive campaign.”

Addressing city’s violent crime is a top priority

It’s no secret – violent crime will be the biggest challenge that Davis will face as the woman in charge of the police department. Violent crime has been, and continues to be, an issue in Memphis with the city setting a record of 323 homicides in 2020.

Davis claims addressing violent crime is one of her top priorities if and when she’s officially named police chief, she hopes a targeted approach will bring positive results.

“Being more laser focused on individuals, repeat offenders who are committing egregious crimes is important,” she said.

She wants to target the 20 percent of offenders who are committing 80 percent of crime, while also working for a more coordinated effort with law enforcement and court systems.

“If all of those wheels are turning at the same time, you get a different kind of result. I believe in sort of a 360-degree approach,” she said.

She has also addressed the importance of civil rights and community relations, making her stance on officer conduct clear.

“Ensuring that officers understand the importance of de-escalation as a priority in all of our encounters, whenever possible, and that we will do no harm,” she said.

Mid-South residents have been active and outspoken in the face of police brutality in recent years and Davis assured WREG there will be no tolerance for officer transgressions.

“If there are egregious acts or violations that harm the community, there are going to be some ramifications,” she said.

Davis still has to be approved as the Memphis Police chief by City Council – that decision is expected next month.

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