Raleigh is picking its next police chief. Will the community be involved?

Anna Johnson
·4 min read

After a year of protests and a renewed focus on police reform, details about how Raleigh will pick its next police chief are emerging.

Public Sector Search & Consulting will search for a successor to current Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown, who is retiring. Since 2016 the company has recruited police chiefs in cities across the country, including Dallas, Nashville, San Francisco and Seattle.

Raleigh intends to have a new chief by July 1.

Here’s what we know so far and how the community might be involved:

When is Deck-Brown’s last day? June 30.

Wasn’t it supposed to be sooner? Yes, she was originally supposed to leave April 1.

Why the delay? Raleigh was already hiring for two “critical” positions — assistant city manager and chief information officer — when Deck-Brown announced her retirement, said City Manager Marchell Adams-David. Those two open positions and the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to the delay, she said.

“While it has taken a little longer than we originally planned we have been very intentional about designing a comprehensive and meaningful process that will bring forward a slate of highly qualified candidates that will help lead the city of Raleigh into its best days,” Adams-David said during Tuesday’s Raleigh City Council meeting.

Raleigh also surveyed Raleigh Police Department staff about the characteristics and qualities they want in their next police chief. Raleigh is parsing through those responses.

Why is she retiring? Deck-Brown contemplated retirement for “some time,” with the events of 2020 playing a “small role” in her decision, The News & Observer previously reported. She is a 33-year veteran of the Raleigh Police Department.

What happens next? Raleigh will meet with the consulting firm, and candidate interviews could begin in May. In the aftermath of protests and calls of police reform, police chiefs are retiring or resigning across the country. Despite the job openings, Adams-David anticipates finding qualified candidates.

“I think Raleigh is special, obviously,” she said. “Raleigh lends itself to having a high reputation of good policing. We are strategically located in a region that would afford a dynamic candidate a wealth of amenities.”

Will the public be involved? Yes, with a few caveats.

The city manager and other city staff will meet with the consulting firm Wednesday to finalize the community engagement schedule.

“That engagement will include but is not limited to key partner interviews within the community, focus group meetings and a community survey,” Adams-David said in the council meeting.

In a follow-up interview with The News & Observer, she didn’t rule out a virtual, moderated event.

It’s unlikely, due to COVID-19, that the city will hold an in-person event open to the community during the hiring process.

What happened last time? Deck-Brown has been chief since 2013. During her hiring process, she beat out nearly 50 other candidates. The three finalists, including Deck-Brown, had to answer eight questions as part of a town hall forum that included members of the public.

What do activists think? Shelia Alamin-Khashoggi, chair of the city’s new police advisory board, said she was surprised the city had already created a job description and outlined a community engagement process.

“Our community committee had already started developing a survey for what they want to see in the a new chief, so to hear the process is already starting without (our) knowledge is very disturbing to us,” she said.

Public Sector Search & Consulting will likely meet with the advisory board and other community groups interested in policing to help in the hiring process, Adams-David said.

“This process will have a great deal of integrity where the consultant will solicit input from the various community groups and advocacy groups,” she said.

In other police news:

Durham Police Chief Cerelyn “C.J.” Davis is one of eight candidates being considered for the Memphis Police Department’s director. No word on whether she’s interested in the Raleigh job.

More than 60 law enforcement agencies in North Carolina, including Raleigh Police Department, have used a “controversial facial recognition service” to track criminal suspects using photos posted on social media by users without their consent, The News & Observer previously reported.

Raleigh approved a pilot text alert notification system for the downtown area to send mobile alerts for “crisis-related incidents.” In the aftermath of protests that turned violent last May, some businesses asked for more communication before protests to better prepare. The pilot program will last about three months and could be expanded to the entire city.