Durham chooses veteran Atlanta officer as new police chief
Posted April 26
Durham County, N.C. — The City of Durham announced on Tuesday that it has selected a new police chief nearly five months after the previous chief retired.
Durham City Manager Tom Bonfield announced that Cerelyn "CJ" Davis will begin the job on June 6. Davis currently serves as the Deputy Chief of the City of Atlanta Police Department.
"I enthusiastically look forward to working with the men and woman of the Durham Police Department to further build a culture of trust and collaboration in partnership with the citizens we serve," Davis said in a statement.
In March, the city narrowed the search to two finalists: Davis and Michael J. Smathers, a major in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.
"There certainly was no one incident, no tipping point," Bonfield said. "It was a combination of the department not making the progress that I had expected to be made over the past year or two. In some cases, there was some progress, but it wasn't fast enough and deliberate enough to meet my expectations and what I think the community's expectations were."
Former Police Chief Jose Lopez Sr. retired at the end of 2015 after Bonfield decided a change in leadership was necessary.
Local Pastor Mak-Anthony Middleton participated in Davis' hiring process and said she has a lot of work ahead of her.
"It is going to be a short honeymoon period. A very short honeymoon period with all that we have been through here in the city," he said.
Durham's police department has been at odds with several community groups in the last few years due to several high-profile cases that led to questions of diversity, transparency and over-policing.
"As we know, there is a deficit of trust in our community between the community and the police department," Middleton said. "One of the things (Davis) is going to have to do is...do things that will bridge that gap, repair the breech."
Bonfield said he believes she is up to that task. Her ability to connect to the community is one of the reasons he said Davis stood out.
"She has a very high level of energy and passion to spend a lot of time in the community and engage the community in a very positive way," Bonfield said.
Bonfield said people should not have unrealistic expectations, but Middleton said the community will be watching and waiting.
"We will be fair and we will be patient, but I think we will be looking for some concrete steps to be taken fairly quickly," Middleton said.
Davis had a 28-year career in the Atlanta Police Department and was appointed as the commander of the department's Homeland Security Unit.