Raleigh, N.C. — Cassandra Deck-Brown was sworn in Friday morning as Raleigh’s newest police chief, becoming the first black woman to hold the post of top cop in the city.
"I am deeply honored, I am deeply humbled and I am deeply blessed," Deck-Brown, 49, said during her pinning ceremony at the Fletcher Opera Theater.
A 25-year veteran of the Raleigh Police Department, Deck-Brown was one of three finalists in a nationwide search that drew in 48 applicants to replace former Chief Harry Dolan. He retired last year after leading the department for more than five years.
“I looked for the best chief in the country and found the best chief right here at home,” City Manager Russell Allen said. "(She) has honor, integrity and character. She is knowledgeable and wise.”
Deck-Brown’s father, Joseph Deck Jr., held the Bible while her son, David Brown II, affixed a pin to her uniform.
The moment was particularly poignant for her 87-year-old father. Raised during segregation, Deck said his daughter's success would not have been possible in his day.
"I can't explain it. I'm just so happy for her, you know. I'm proud of her," he said. "She loves it. That's the main thing – she loves what she does."
Deck-Brown, who is from North Carolina, graduated from East Carolina University and earned a master's degree in public administration from North Carolina State University.
She described herself as "wide-eyed girl" when she graduated from college and joined the Raleigh Police Department in 1987.
"I guess you could say I had a dream," she said.
Deck-Brown worked her way up the ranks as a detective in 1994, sergeant in 1997, lieutenant in 2002, captain in 2003 and major in 2006, when she assumed leadership of the police department's Administrative Services Division.
She was promoted to deputy chief in June 2011, after temporarily commanding daily operations of the department's Internal Affairs Unit and several other operations.
"She came up through the ranks," Raleigh police Maj. Stacy Deans said. "She knows the personnel. We have shared goals."
Deck-Brown took over as head of the police department when Dolan retired Oct. 1. He was at the ceremony Friday to cheer on his former deputy chief.
"She was so gifted, so talented and so committed to the police department that I couldn't be more excited for her, her incredible family and this community," he said.
During the ceremony, Deck-Brown gave a nod to women who started out in the humblest of positions in law enforcement – the meter maids of the 1950s. She recalled the first female officer on Raleigh's force in the 1970s.
"I stand on her shoulders," Deck-Brown said.
She also said being the first black female police chief comes with an added responsibility – one that she takes seriously.
"Knowing that I am a role model, and the message that it sends to African-Americans, African-American women and women in general is signficant," Deck-Brown said.
She also thanked the community, police officers, her church and family members for their support, and said her father's "life lessons" helped her attain her goals.
As chief, Deck-Brown earns a yearly salary of $136,891. She leads a department of 777 sworn officers and 99 civilians, with a budget of $88.4 million.