North Carolina isn’t just home to…well we’re not sure what the state’s known for, but it currently has the highest number of black woman police chiefs in its history. The state can boasts six black female police chiefs.
Raleigh’s Cassandra Deck-Brown, Durham’s CJ Davis, Morrisville’s Patrice Andrews and Fayetteville’s Gina Hawkins spoke with WRAL about being women of color in such vital leadership roles and the experience of policing while Black.
“We’ve broken a glass ceiling,” chief of the Raleigh Police Department Cassandra Deck-Brown told WRAL. “So, becoming chief, the honor is knowing that somebody else has that opportunity to get there.”
The women collectively agreed that their womanhood has been a significantly larger obstacle than their ethnicity.
“Even far into our careers, it was always a proving game,”said Durham police chief CJ Davis who formerly worked with fellow chief Gina Hawkins of Fayetville at the Atlanta Police Department.
Deck-Brown said the diversity the women have bought to North Carolina’s police departments is an apt reflective of the times.
“This is a paradigm shift in policing,” Deck-Brown added. “This is what 21st century policing looks like.”
The women also spoke about another component of 21st century policing: the escalating tensions between police officials and the communities they serve.
“When I hear the us against them conversation and I’m thinking to myself, well, I’m part of them too,” Davis said.
Morrisville’s Patrice Andrews said she’s sometimes perceived as a traitor by some Black people. The women believe that police can learn from their poor standing with communities of color.
“The public voice arose out of Ferguson,” she said in reference to the 2013 protests that erupted after the police killing of Mike Brown. “You could very easily take a 1965 photo with John Lewis and a Ferguson photo and not know when one happened.”
“When you look at the national climate, all of that lands in your city’s lap also,” she said.
The women work to recruit more people of color in their departments, particularly women and hold implicit bias training and focus groups within their departments to tackle the possible prejudices police hold that further perpetuate the culture of police brutality.
“We are in a unique position to change that paradigm,” Davis said.
“We have to be thinking a different way because we can’t keep doing the same thing over and over again,” Andrews concluded. “It’s not working.”