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Activist responds to historic selection of Cerelyn Davis a new Memphis Police chief

Cerelyn "CJ" Davis has been nominated to lead the Memphis Police Department and will be the first woman to head it if she's approved by City Council.

MEMPHIS, Tennessee — Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland has made his pick for the new Memphis police chief position – a historic one as she is the first woman to lead the agency. 

Cerelyn "CJ" Davis has decades of experience in law enforcement and is currently the police chief of Durham, North Carolina.

Davis spoke on the importance of MPD’s relationship with the community and activists in a press conference Monday. 

"I think it's important that not just myself but my staff take every opportunity to meet with community members, activists," said Davis. "We don't always have to agree but it's important that we have conversations. So that we can reach consensus about issues that are affecting our community." 

Davis – who has over 33 years of experience in the law enforcement profession - said she's supportive of the 8 Can't Wait principles and use of force reform protocols. 

"I am very supportive of the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act which specifically addresses use of force and the banning of chokeholds, carotid artery types of holds." 

The selected chief began her career with the Atlanta Police Department. 

The Daily Memphian reports in 2008 that Davis was demoted and then fired by the Atlanta Police Department after allegations she failed to investigate the husband of one of her detectives arrested for having child pornography.  

After filing a lawsuit she was reinstated and was promoted as deputy chief in 2014.   

"I was basically and I'm just going to use the terminology, used as a scapegoat about that particular incident. I could have retired, I could have left the department as a major and had  full retirement but I refused to take the blame for something I had nothing to do with." 

Activist Dr. Earle Fisher said he’s ready to work with Davis and will hold her accountable. Fisher also said he hopes she leads authentically.  

“She checks those boxes but if she does not ultimately usher in and implement structural and systemic changes that people have been advocating for from a concrete standpoint for the last few years then I think that most of us will ultimately be disappointed,” he said.  

Fisher said it would have been beneficial for the community to have been able to engage with Davis prior to her selection.  

“At some level, she’s going to have to serve at the pleasure of the mayor." 

Davis now has to be approved by the Memphis City Council.

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