Community involvement seemed to be the favorite topic Thursday among three finalists for the job of Raleigh’s next police chief.
The three finalists answered questions Thursday in a public job interview at City Hall. City Manager Russell Allen asked each candidate eight questions. More than 75 local residents were allowed to attend and offer feedback through forms handed out at the meeting.
The three finalists were chosen from among 48 applicants after former Chief Harry Dolan retired Oct. 1.
• Malik Aziz, 44, deputy chief of police for the Dallas, Texas, Police Department
• Cassandra Deck-Brown, 49, interim police chief of the Raleigh Police Department
• Bryan Norwood, 46, chief of the Richmond, Va., Police Department
Each candidate stressed the importance of working with the local community as a way of addressing problems ranging from gang violence to quality-of-life issues.
“We’ll never arrest our way out of any crime problem,” stated Malik Aziz, deputy chief of the Dallas, Texas police force. “We have to get inside those preventive programs and deal with youth through police activity leagues, or athletic leagues. We have to engage with non-government entities and not-for profit agencies.”
Interim Raleigh Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown said the city has dedicated significant resources to deal with the spike in violent, youth-based offenses.
The department, she said, has “built significant partnerships with Family Services as a means of addressing those youthful offenders, and finding ways to divert our youth to look at being, at some point in their lives, productive citizens.
“Those partnerships encompass everyone in that community — the schools, the clergies, the citizens, the parents.”
Bryan Norwood, chief of the Richmond, Va. police department explained, “Some of the challenges that we face — they can all be met through reaching out to the community and working together to solve problems.
“Anyone who’s going to partner with the police department to solve a problem, we’re going to seek them out.”
The finalists each gave examples of past partnerships they had created within their communities.
Deck-Brown described the “Charm School,” a personal enrichment program for young women in Raleigh underserved by existing community partnerships.
“By the time they have completed the four-week [program] they are well dressed; they understand importance of having skills,” she said. “They leave as a better youth, as a better person than we found them, and that requires many partners from the community both in the public and private sector.”
Norwood discussed the Young Adult Police Commissioner program he has established in cities such as Richmond.
“We brought people from every area high school together, not to recruit them to the vocation of police work, but to make them better at whatever they want to do with their own lives,” he said. “I’m proud to say that after about seven years we have a 100 percent success rate: every man or woman that’s come into our program has gone on to the vocation or college of their choice.”
Aziz talked about the Police Athletic League he helped re-establish in Dallas in 2007.
“We did everything from teaching kids how to play golf, to basketball, to football to soccer, to chess to debate to field trips to science and engineering ,” he said. “Through the Police Athletic League, we were able to provide a stable foundation.”
The three also touched on mistakes made in their careers and how they had grown from them. One of the biggest lessons each learned was the important roles that honesty, integrity, transparency and teamwork play in a position such as chief of police.
In addition to their three-minute responses to the questions, the candidates were also given time for closing statements.
“I spent the last 24 years preparing myself for the leadership role that I seek now. Many people have asked … why don’t I stay put? I could become chief of police in Dallas,” Aziz said. “Leaders don’t do that. They seek opportunities and they go after them and when they find a great place to work, they seek it out and put forth an earnest effort in order to go after those things.”
Deck-Brown briefly went over her career with the Raleigh Police Department, where she began in 1987 as a patrol officer after graduating from East Carolina University.
“When I went to undergrad, I applied to one college,” she said.“When it came time to look for a career, I applied here. My father told me, ‘honey, don’t put all your eggs in one basket,’ and I did, because I knew this was what I wanted to do.”
Norwood said he recently had to consider switching vocations, but quickly realized he was right where he belongs.
“I’ve been a police officer since I turned 21 years old,”he said. “I love this job, I love serving communities, I love bringing people together … there’s nothing I’d rather be.”
Steve Yoho, a retired welder and Raleigh police department volunteer, said he found the public forum very informative.
He described his role at the department as “serving those that protect and serve.”
“I wouldn’t want the city manager’s job, to have to pick,” he said. “All three of them gave great answers.”
The Rev. Jemonde Taylor of St. Ambrose church said he was surprised at the forum’s focus on community involvement.
“It helped break a misconception I had about a police force being anti-crime only,” Taylor said. “It was good to hear so much talk about partnering with so many different entities. I thought the city manager did a good job of presenting a strong slate of confident people.”
Allen said it could take several weeks before he comes to a final decision. After the meeting, he said it was fortunate that Raleigh had attracted such an outstanding group of candidates.
“One of those notorious things that gets city managers fired is police chiefs. If it goes bad or it doesn’t work out as it should … I don’t want to make a bad decision,” he said, grinning.
He said, fortunately,“by the time we get down to the finalists, any one of them could be chief.”