The two finalists for Durham’s next top cop have three things in common.
First but not foremost, the middle initial J – Cerelyn “C.J.” Davis, of the Atlanta Police Department. Michael J. (for Jay) Smathers, of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg PD.
Second, both attended universities founded on religious precepts. Davis studied at Saint Leo, a Catholic school created by the Order of Saint Benedict of Florida. Smathers attended Liberty University, built into prominence by Baptist evangelist Jerry Falwell.
And third, unlike the seemingly dormant professional nature of former chief Jose Lopez, our new top cop will possess the drive to thrive and the will to achieve. Their track records attest to accomplishments, tirelessness and heaps of heart. Each shows strong interest in the less advantaged.
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These two candidates, however, differ in at least two significant ways. One is obvious and possibly relevant: Davis is a black woman, and Smathers a white man.
Based on their biographies, social media, and the public record, they also contrast pretty sharply in style and perhaps personality.
Davis has given herself the not exactly modest Twitter handle, “@1divacop.” Even though it’s a civilian’s account, @1divacop does focus mostly on Davis’ police environment and related appearances.
Davis definitely promotes her profile in a positive, respectable way – and gives shout-outs and commemoration to others – but let’s face it: being known as a “diva” is a mixed bag.
Beyond the celebrated female singer connotation, one traditional dictionary definition is: “a famous and successful woman who is very attractive and fashionable.”
Less flattering, the top definition on the Urban Dictionary, which says “a true diva will do anything to get what she wants.” The Oxford Dictionary’s second definition: “A self-important person who is temperamental and difficult to please…”
The more than 100 tweets or retweets by C.J. Davis have plenty of photos. Photos of Davis, I mean, not that there’s anything wrong with that.
The deputy chief on a police motorcycle, in a police helicopter, at a fund-raising event, at a mayor’s speech, at a business women’s association gala, with academy graduates, at police community gatherings, with a wide-smiling child, and with TV reality court show celebrity, “Judge Hatchett.”
Twitter is a self-promotion vehicle for millions, and Davis takes advantage. Still, I think she may find it prudent to change her handle.
A police chief is front and center on so many violent tragedies and community controversies (part of the job description). Calling herself Durham’s “diva cop” just may not click on the credibility meter.
From what I could discover, Smathers eschews Twitter, even Facebook. On his resume, the first paragraph isn’t at all about him – it’s about his department. Smathers calls his employer a “recognized innovator” that focuses on accountability and “community collaboration.”
Smathers then provides a relatively dry but impressive list of his career exposure and emphases.
Davis’ resume begins with a paragraph about her, where she writes that she’s an innovative, highly qualified, decisive change agent.
Smathers depicts a nose to the grindstone, no-nonsense type who lets results do the talking. Davis portrays herself as a public figure who shows up to be counted where it counts, and who draws attention to important matters (minorities in policing and LGBT issues, to name two).
At a forum at 7 p.m. Wednesday night in council chambers, we’ll see the candidates in their first public appearance on the Durham stage.
I think the city will be fortunate to have either prospect get the position and come to town. But Davis could do less to push her persona, and Smathers could do more to advance his.