Memphis City Council appoints CJ Davis as new police chief

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The City of Memphis has a new police chief.

City councilmembers appointed Cerelyn “CJ” Davis as the newest chief of the Memphis Police Department.

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Davis is the first woman to lead MPD.

The full council approved Davis in a 12-1 vote.

Chief Davis said she is ready to hit the ground running when she takes over the Memphis Police Department on June 14.

“I’m a community boots-on-the-ground kind of person. I meet with anybody that wants to have a forum and have discussions,” she said.

Davis is coming to the Bluff City from the Bull City of Durham, North Carolina, where she’s been police chief for five years.

She said crime increased here and across the nation last year and she is already working on a 90-day plan.

“Identifying the individuals, you know committing the most egregious crimes. I’ve said it before 80 percent of the crime is committed by 20 percent of the people. There are a lot of good people in communities that are suffering because of what a few people are doing,” said Davis.

Davis said police hiring is a big priority as well. MPD has been dealing with police staffing shortages for years.

“You have to sell your city, you have to make people want to come here,” said Davis. “There are some great things happening here in the city of Memphis, there’s still individuals interested in criminal justice careers.”

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Davis is also coming after some have criticized the selection process for its lack of transparency and community engagement.

“Our problems are comprehensive and so our response to the problem has to be comprehensive,” said Rev. Earle Fisher.

Community activist Earle Fisher said Davis has a lot of tackle when she takes over MPD.

“But I think it’s clear she was brought in to lowering crime so at the end of the day, all the other things will not matter if she can’t help to bring the body count down and lower the crime rate and not in a way that’s a bi-product of some manipulated numbers,” he said.

Fisher said he wants to see what kind of reform she’ll bring to MPD and if she’ll push for changes.

“If there are some concrete opportunities on the table and they don’t see eye to eye, I would hope that even though she serves at the pleasure of the mayor, she will be able to become her own person and stand up for what’s right regardless,” said Fisher.

The Memphis Police Association union believes one of Davis’ first priorities is getting to know her new police force of more than 2,000 officers.

“Because you’re going to need your officers on your team. You’re going to need officers to buy into your new crime plans because they’re the ones answering the calls, they’re the ones who are gonna help reduce this crime under your direction,” said Essica Cage-Rosario, President for the Memphis Police Association.

Davis is also a Memphis outsider.

Cage-Rosario said this could help bring a new perspective to MPD.

“[Davis] talked about being accessible to officers being accessible to people in the community, and I think that’s a great plan and I think if you can communicate with people, they can see you and see that you’re willing to decide the time and attention that we need here I think she’ll be ok,” said Cage-Rosario.

Chief Davis said she has to wrap things up with the Durham Police Department so she doesn’t have any plans to immediately name new members to her command staff.

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