Durham’s top cop, Police Chief C.J. Davis still gets followed in stores sometimes, she said on the “Megyn Kelly Today” show Tuesday morning.
“Have you ever wanted to turn around to the person following you and say, ‘You don’t have to worry about anything getting stolen in this store today because I am the chief of police and I will keep you safe,’ ” Kelly asked her.
“Megyn, you don’t know how many times I have wanted to say that,” Davis said.
Kelly brought four of the six African-American women police chiefs in North Carolina on her nationally televised show Tuesday.
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Davis, Durham’s first black woman chief, joined Raleigh Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown, Morrisville Police Chief Patrice Andrews and Fayetteville Police Chief Gina Hawkins.
They talked about why they decided to become police chiefs, having “the talk” with their children about how to respond to police, and how they face racial profiling.
It was Kelly’s second day hosting the 9 a.m. hour on NBC’s morning talk show.
Before Kelly interviewed the police chiefs, she interviewed the cast from the hit drama “This Is Us” in a taped segment. She also interviewed one of the show’s stars, Chrissy Metz, live.
“The story I have next is the reason I am here,” Kelly said transitioning to the 6 minute and 50 second segment on the police chiefs.
“If your idea of a police chief is a gruff cigar-chomping tough guy, then you need to meet C.J. Davis,” is how Kelly started the segment, which included taped interviews with the four women and footage of them working in the community.
As Kelly spoke, the show aired footage of Davis asking a young man for a hug.
“She’s shaking up how community sees someone wearing a badge,” Kelly said.
Davis started as Durham's chief in June 2016 and oversees a budget of nearly $62 million. The department has about 600 employees, including about 500 sworn officers.
As Davis stepped into the position, the department faced public criticism over racial disparities in traffic stops and misdemeanor marijuana enforcement.
She has made changes that include requiring officers to issue citations (versus an arrest) for certain misdemeanor marijuana and other offenses, reducing the number of minor traffic violation stops, and sending young people who qualify to the county’s misdemeanor diversion program.
The four chiefs made a brief appearance on the stage wearing their dress blues after the taped portion.
While 98 percent of the country’s police chiefs are still men, Davis is part of a growing sorority of female police chiefs, Kelly said.
Growing up, Davis said, she was infatuated with the 1970s television show “Police Woman” starring Angie Dickinson.
Television made policing look glamorous, but real life posed challenges.
“I was ready for policing, but policing was not ready for me,” Davis said.
Davis said women couldn’t just shoot “OK.”
“We had to push ourselves that much more,” Davis said.
The National Center for Women in Policing found the average male officer is eight-and-half time more likely than a female officer to face an excessive force complaint, Kelly said.
Davis said she believes it.
“Deescalating (a situation with) someone who is 6 foot 7, that is already drunk, and you think I am getting ready to break my nails fighting him?” she said. “We had a lot of practice on how to deescalate situations.”
Having ‘the talk’
All of the women are mothers who face the realities of raising minority children and having to talk with them about what to do if police pull them over, they said.
The segment also showed Davis handing a child a sticker and saying, “Don’t be afraid of us, OK?”
It’s important to share that aspect of policing, she said.
“Not just because (officers) can tote a gun or tell someone what to do,” Davis said. “(To show) they have in them the heart to give back to the community.”
After interviewing the four chiefs, Kelly said stories like that are why she wants to do the NBC morning talk show.
“That feeling of like “Yes, anything is possible,” she said. “Strong examples for everyone coming up behind you.”
Kelly said she recently learned about the “brass ceiling” and decided to honor the women by reaching out to Bank of America, which gave a $20,000 donation to the North Carolina Law Enforcement Women’s Association.
The association will create a scholarship in the chiefs’ honor “to support the next generation of women coming up the ranks behind you,” Kelly said.