‘I believe I am the right choice:’ New MPD chief exudes confidence as city council members continue discussions

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — C.J. Davis continues to make rounds in Memphis as the city council is set to vote next month on whether to approve her as the city’s next police chief. Davis sat down with FOX13 to talk about her plan to reduce crime and ensure trust in the community.

“Day One is to get to know my people,” Davis said. Davis says she believes it’s important that she meets the officers that she would be leading, seeing how they operate and the issues facing the community every day.

WATCH FULL INTERVIEW: FOX13 talks with MPD Chief candidate C.J. Davis

“Visit the various precincts, talk to the officers on the street, do some ride-alongs so that I can see the community, witness for myself some of the challenges they face,” said Davis.

Davis has more than 30 years of experience in law enforcement. She started her career with the Atlanta police department. In 2016, she became Chief of Police in Durham, North Carolina.

Davis is coming to the Bluff City at a time when crime is high. The city had 332 homicides in 2020, shattering the 2016 record of 228. Things aren’t looking up in 2021 either. The city is already reporting 87 homicides four months into 2021. Durham is smaller than Memphis, and Davis says she plans to use her experience in Atlanta to tackle Memphis’ crime problem.

“That’s where I spent most of my time. That’s where I cut my teeth. That’s where I rose through the ranks. I’m very experienced with major incidents, major types of crimes, public relationships.”

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Davis will also have to figure out how to recruit officers to the department. Davis says recruitment tactics need to change to appeal to the current generation.

“They like incentives, they like all kinds of perks, we have to recruit in a different way. Signing bonuses, incentives for living in the city, just new ways to attract the new officer.”

Davis also wants to hear ideas from officers currently with the department.

“I like to tap into the talent. You’d be surprised some of the youngest minds, some of the brightest minds in the police department have great ideas.”

FOX13 also talked to Davis about the unrest that has been going on for the past year since the death of George Floyd. Ex-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of killing Floyd on Tuesday afternoon. Davis says this is something that could change how officers approach their jobs.

“How do we build relationships? What does our work require us to do? It’s to protect and to serve, to do no harm,” said Davis.

Davis also speaking about policies within police departments that should either be changed or added in the wake of George Floyd’s death. Most notably, she recommends adding a “duty to intervene” policy.

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“A duty to intervene. If that policy is in effect, you wouldn’t have three officers standing around like it’s OK to watch another officer abuse his authority or apply physical force on an individual. That was in the case in the George Floyd situation. We’re looking for sweeping changes in law enforcement.”

In terms of how to build the public’s trust in law enforcement, Davis explains she is a big advocate for community engagement.

“We have to be the ones to actually go into the communities and establish relationships, and not after a serious incident occurred that requires us to respond.”

There have been many discussions about defunding police, and if that would fix current problems. Davis doesn’t believe it would.

“I don’t believe in defunding, I believe the community members want to see police officers, but they want to see police officers with the intent to protect and to serve.”

Additionally, Davis set the record straight with FOX13 about a situation that happened in 2008 when she was with the Atlanta Police Department. Davis was demoted and then fired after supposedly telling detectives not to investigate the husband of a police sergeant accused of possessing child porn. Davis says that’s not what happened.

“That was a situation that was a false allegation against me. A couple of investigators that had botched an investigation and sought to blame their supervisor for the entire incident.”

Davis was reinstated and promoted several times before moving on from Atlanta to become the police chief in Durham. Even though she’s an outsider, Davis is full of confidence that she is the right person to lead the Memphis Police Department.

“I believe that I am the right choice,” Davis said. “I believe that I do have the experience and expertise to help move the needle in the right direction. When you reach the level that I am, you know how to maximize your resources, you know how to allocate resources.”