Davis starts job as Memphis Police Chief Monday

Updated: Jun. 13, 2021 at 5:50 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Monday marks a historic day in Memphis.

It’s the day Cerelyn ‘CJ’ Davis begins her job as leader of the Memphis Police Department.

Davis will be Memphis’ first police chief, as the police director title will no longer be used.

She’ll also be the first woman to lead the department in its 194-year history.

But Davis takes office at a time when Memphis is seeing a surge in violent crime and the biggest push for police reform in generations.

As president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, Davis testified before Congress last year about the need for police reform nationwide, calling on Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which is still being debated.

“We also recognize the majority of police officers who demonstrate on a daily basis their love and commitment towards the tenets of 21st Century Policing, and the safety and well-being of the communities they so courageously serve,” Davis said. “However, today at this critical time in history, NOBLE members and other colleagues, who lead agencies throughout the nation, appeal to the Senate to pass legislation that provides National guidelines to reform the system of policing, to snuff out every possibility of racial bias that has thrived in the belly of our industry for decades.”

Despite those words, some Memphis activists want to see action and say they’ll be watching what Davis does as police chief to show she’s serious about reform.

City Councilman J.B. Smiley said he has confidence in Davis’ ability to tackle crime and bring fresh ideas.

“What she does bring is a wealth of information and a wealth of knowledge to address and reduce the violent crime, which is one of the most important problems that we have to address in the city of Memphis,” said Smiley.

Davis selected MPD veteran Don Crowe to serve as assistant police chief, a key move that could help her better understand the organization she’s about to take charge of on Monday.

With Chief Davis taking office Monday, it means Interim Police Director James Ryall will officially retire, which he had planned to do before he agreed to serve as interim director.

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