Incoming Durham police chief Cerelyn Davis held her first Bull City press conference Monday morning, and she was about as specific as a Bill Belichick post-game interview. Swap "one game at a time" for "establish strong community-police relations," and you get the picture.
If you trained your ears, however, there were some faint notes of detail. Despite loud calls to deprioritize marijuana enforcement in Durham (and across the country), Davis didn't sound like she favored such a nuanced approach.
"When we have marijuana laws on the books in Atlanta, we enforce those marijuana laws," Davis said. "We don't ask our officers to deviate from city ordinance. If city ordinance needs to be changed, we look at talking to legislators to make necessary changes. But we don't put our officers in precarious situations so they can use that level of discretion."
On meatier topics—body cameras, rising violent crime, and racial bias in traffic stops—Davis's answers were mostly a gooey stew of bureaucratic gobbledygook. She will "facilitate internal change." She will "work with community leaders to impact change." The department needs to "find alternatives to criminal activity" for young people. Davis is committed to "fighting for what's right." And so on.
And then there's the matter of her past. In 2008, Davis was demoted and then fired by the Atlanta Police Department, after an internal investigation found that she instructed detectives not to investigate the husband of an APD sergeant found to possess child porn. A federal grand jury later indicted the man. Davis appealed the decision to Atlanta's Citizen Review Board, which overturned her termination on the grounds of "inconsistent testimony" by one of the detectives. She was then reinstated.
Davis was asked about this incident. "The only thing I can do is stand on my reputation at this point," she said. "I plan to establish strong relationships, be accessible, be transparent." Asked a follow-up about being fired and rehired by the APD, Davis punted. "I won't take a deep dive on that because that information is available to you."
The INDY asked city manager Tom Bonfield, who hired Davis, if he was concerned about her history.
"We thoroughly reviewed it," Bonfield said. "We met with her individually, we had an investigator look into the incident, and I met with her personally and walked through the entire scenario of what happened. She has been very upfront and public about the situation throughout. And I think there is a clear conclusion to be drawn based on what we found that the information [that got Davis fired in 2008] was falsified. She was completely exonerated."
Davis's first day is June 6.