Durham Police Chief C.J. Davis – who is black – told NBC’s Megyn Kelly Tuesday morning she still gets followed in stores sometimes.
“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.
That was just one of the challenges Davis discussed on “Megyn Kelly Today,” which highlighted the state’s six black women police chiefs – a record. On the second day of the NBC show, which airs at 9 a.m. Durham’s first black woman chief was joined by Raleigh Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown, Morrisville Police Chief Patrice Andrews and Fayetteville Police Chief Gina Hawkins. Other chiefs are in Winston-Salem and Littleton.
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They spoke about why they decided to become police chiefs, talking with their children about how to respond to police, and how they face racial profiling. After the discussion, Kelly told the chiefs that a $20,000 donation would be made in their honor to the North Carolina Law Enforcement Women’s Association.
“The story I have next is the reason I am here,” Kelly said to introduce the segment on the chiefs, which included taped interviews with the women and footage of them working in the community.
“If your idea of a police chief is a gruff cigar-chomping tough guy, then you need to meet C.J. Davis,” Kelly said.
As Kelly spoke, there was footage of Davis asking a young man for a hug.
“She’s shaking up how community sees someone wearing a badge,” Kelly said.
Kelly visited Durham this summer to promote the new show and to throw the first pitch at a Durham Bulls game.
The four chiefs made a brief appearance wearing their dress blues after the recorded 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.
“De-escalating (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 de-escalate situations.”
Having ‘the talk’
All of the women are mothers who said they face the realities of raising black children and needing to talk with them about what to do if police pull them over, they said.
The segment 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 the story shows 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.