A police officer makes a racist comment. A city manager wants to institute a policy that puts police officers in danger.
These scenarios were presented to the three law enforcement leaders who want to be Raleigh’s next police chief during a virtual, community forum Thursday night.
Whoever is chosen will replace Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown, who is retiring at the end of the month after more than 30 years with the Raleigh Police Department. While she was hired internally, the next chief will come from outside the department.
The three leaders, selected from 31 applicants, are Robert Lowe, deputy superintendent for the Cambridge, Massachusetts. Police Department; Darryl McSwain, chief of police for the Maryland-National Capital Park Police - Montgomery County Division; and Estella Patterson, deputy chief for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.
“Police work is something that continues to evolve,” said Raleigh City Manager Marchell Adams-David. “And quite frankly I can’t think of a more difficult position in today’s current landscape than that of the police chief.”
The full forum can be found online in English and Spanish on the city’s YouTube page at youtube.com/cityofraleigh.
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cambridge realized it was going to need more beds for its homeless population. Lowe, who joined the police department in 2001, oversaw the city’s efforts to convert three gymnasiums to shelters during the pandemic.
It’s one way he’s contributed to the community as a police officer, he said. That job requires officers to leave people better than when they found them, he said.
“I honestly believe we can support our community and support our police at the same time, and we can do it in a way that is respectful to the culture here in Raleigh,” Lowe said.
He’s watched meetings of the city’s new police advisory board and said he’s reviewed the city’s budget, strategic plan and new programs meant to address community concerns.
“Being present is important,” Lowe said. “When there is an issue in the community and you are trying to solve problems, you have to be there.”
Lowe is a licensed attorney and a doctoral student at New York University focusing on implicit bias in policing, according to the city’s news release. He has a Juris Doctor from the Massachusetts School of Law and an undergraduate degree in law enforcement from Western New England University. He also served in the U.S. Marine Corps.
A police department must have the mindset of a guardian and not a warrior, said McSwain, who is in charge of a police department that oversees the park system of Montgomery County.
“Policing itself is not necessarily limited to the police department,” he said. “Safety within a community is just that. It’s a community responsibility in which we work together.”
There are times when the police department takes the lead and times when its role is to help the community solve its problems, he said.
“It would be an honor to serve you in the capacity of police chief itself,” he said. “I will see this job as a sacred trust and not simply a job where I collect a paycheck. Every day I will seek to gain your trust, your respect, your community engagement and collaboration.”
He also served 30 years with the Montgomery County Police Department before retiring as assistant chief, according to the police department’s website. He has a master’s degree in administrative management from Bowie State University and a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Maryland.
Transparency, accountability and integrity are how you build and rebuild trust between a police department and the community, said Patterson, who joined the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department in 1996. She has been in her current role since 2019.
“I am a person who holds myself to the highest standards,” she said. “In doing that, I will ensure those under me will do the same. In building trust and legitimacy with the community, you have to be connected.”
The police chief role is one of the most significant in a city, Patterson said.
“Ensuring that your community is the safest community is my top priority,” she said. “And as I look at my qualifications, I feel I am ready on day one to roll into this position. I have 24 years of qualified service working in a major metropolitan police department.”
If selected, she said she would implement neighborhood policing where officers talk to residents and build rapport.
She has been a police major, internal affairs commander, recruitment director, division commander and patrol officer, according to the city’s news release. She has a master’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Oklahoma and a bachelor’s degree in political science from UNC Charlotte. She was in the U.S. Army Reserves.