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New Memphis Police Chief Confirmed, First Woman in Job

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Cerelyn “CJ” Davis was confirmed Tuesday afternoon as Memphis’s new chief of police. The City Council’s 12-1 vote makes this the first time a woman has been named top cop in the department.

Her new job begins June 14, succeeding recently retired Police Director Michael Rallings, who spent his entire career as a Memphis police officer. 

As the current chief of police in Durham, N.C., she is also a rare external hire in a department where promotions are often rewarded to MPD veterans. Councilmember Martavius Jones made note of that before he cast the lone no vote.  

“There are some instances where I think an external candidate would be better,” he said. “The one vote that I have will reflect my personal feeling for this position at this particular time.”

Jones added that he would nevertheless support Davis’s efforts. Earlier in the day, when Davis received the endorsement of the council’s public safety committee, Jones and Rhonda Logan abstained.

With a 35-year career in policing, three decades of which were at the Atlanta Police Department, Davis's biggest job yet comes with the prospect of tackling a record homicide rate and calls for more police transparency and accountability.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland previously called her the “right person to lead this department,” and cited her record for “building relationships with the community she serves.”