RALEIGH — The city named three finalists vying to become Raleigh’s next police chief Thursday and guaranteed that the department will have an African-American leader for the second time in its history.
City officials narrowed a field of 48 applicants to the interim chief Cassandra Deck-Brown; Malik Aziz, the deputy chief of police in Dallas, Texas; and Bryan Norwood, the chief of police in Richmond, Va. They are seeking to replace Harry Patrick Dolan, who retired last fall after five years as chief.
If the city selects Deck-Brown, she would be the first African-American woman to head the department and the first chief chosen from within the department’s ranks since 1994. That year, Deck-Brown’s brother in-law, Mitchell Brown, was promoted to chief and served nearly seven years.
Aziz was one of two finalists for the Fayetteville police chief’s job. Last week, Aziz told reporters that Fayetteville had chosen Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s deputy chief Harold Medlock, who was introduced as the city’s new chief Wednesday.
Norwood began his career in New Haven, Conn., and was chief in Bridgeport, Conn., before coming to Richmond, Va., in 2008.
In advertising the job, the city said it was looking for someone with “eight years of progressively responsible executive-level experience in police operations and management.” City Manager Russell Allen said the nationwide search would mirror the process that occurred when Dolan, then chief in Grand Rapids, Mich., was hired in 2007.
Many residents have said they hope Dolan’s successor carries out his legacy of community policing, with an emphasis on youth mentoring, that helped lead to a reduction in violent crime throughout the city, particularly in Southeast Raleigh. The Raleigh department has about 770 sworn officers.
Deck-Brown, 49, has been with the Raleigh Police Department since 1987 and worked her way up to deputy chief.
She grew up in Franklin County but spent summers with her mother’s relatives in Philadelphia, where she saw a female police officer on the street one day. The sight of a woman in uniform and in control inspired her, she said in 2006.
Deck-Brown graduated from East Carolina University with a degree in criminal justice, then entered the police academy and the Raleigh Police Department in 1987. She worked as a patrol officer, a crime prevention-community relations officer and a detective, before earning a master’s degree in public administration from N.C. State University in 1995.
Promoted to captain in 2003, she became commander of what is now the North District. She later headed the department’s Administrative Services Division and was promoted to deputy chief last summer.
Deck-Brown helped coordinate Charm School, a summer program organized by the department to keep teen girls from tough neighborhoods out of trouble, one of Dolan’s community policing initiatives. At the program’s first graduation ceremony, she described how the girls’ personalities had blossomed and how the lessons in etiquette and dress would last a lifetime.
Aziz, 44, is a Texas native and has been with the Dallas Police Department for 21 years. He a graduate of the University of Texas at Arlington and received a master’s degree in business from the University of Dallas. He began his career as a jailer for Dallas County and joined the Dallas police three years later. He is currently responsible for the department’s northwest division, with about 350 officers, 200,000 residents and 50 square miles.
The busy division includes SWAT, mounted patrols, canine units, fatal car crash investigations and special events.
“Any major incident that goes down in Dallas, that’s where you will find me – in emergency response situations,” Aziz said during a public forum in Fayetteville last month.
Aziz is in charge of event planning for the Texas State Fair, which attracts about 3.5 million people over a three-week period.
At last month’s forum in Fayetteville, Aziz said a department with him at the helm would focus on guns, gangs and drugs because they directly affect residents’ quality of life and neighborhood viability.
Norwood, 46, a graduate of Hampton University, is a native of Bridgeport and became the city’s youngest police chief when he was selected in 2006 at age 39. Before that, he was a detective commander with the New Haven Police Department, where he had climbed the ranks and was noted for his integrity and for not forgetting what it’s like to be a patrolman.
During his 2-1/2 years in Bridgeport, Norwood focused on community policing and upgrading the department. He handpicked 10 officers to serve on the department’s Neighborhood Enforcement Team to address residents’ concerns and quality of life issues in some of the city’s most embattled neighborhoods. Although residents applauded the move, the NET unit drew the ire of police union leaders who said Norwood’s selection process violated their contract, which required members of special units to be selected based on seniority. Norwood also angered union leaders when he disbanded the department’s traffic division.
In Richmond, Norwood replaced Rodney Monroe, who had been hired as chief of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. Members of the local police union were sharply critical of hiring an outsider because they supported the interim chief, who had risen through the ranks.
There were also questions about how long Norwood would serve as chief because he was hired by outgoing mayor L. Douglas Wilder. The soft-spoken Norwood, in an interview in August, said that his relationship at times with Wilder’s successor, Dwight Jones, has been “pretty good.”
Norwood continued the legacy of community policing started by Monroe. He built partnerships with the city’s faith community, and started a Youth Adult Police Commission, composed of 20 high school-age youngsters. Norwood meets with the teens once a week for advice and to address their concerns.
The Fayetteville Observer and Richmond Times-Dispatch contributed to this report.