Raleigh, N.C. — The three finalists to become Raleigh’s next police chief are all Black, and while Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin said city officials didn’t limit their search to minority candidates, she noted that race does play an important role in policing today.
Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown, who also is Black, will retire on June 30, and city officials said they hope to have her successor in place on July 1.
City leaders conducted a nationwide search for Deck-Brown’s successor and considered 31 candidates before narrowing the list to three finalists:
- Rob D. Lowe, deputy superintendent of the Cambridge (Mass.) Police Department
- Darryl McSwain, chief of police for the Maryland-National Capital Park Police
- Estella D. Patterson, deputy chief of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department
All three participated in a live, virtual forum Thursday evening in which previously submitted questions from residents will be answered.
The candidates were asked about how they would build trust between police and the community.
“I come from a community that embraces a community policing model,” said Lowe. “What that is is two pieces: One is the philosophy I defined as working with the community to identify the problems and help the community solve the problems.”
McSwain said he would make “sure that culture represents a guardian and not a warrior.”
“Where we look at them at say, ‘I’m here with you, and I have your best interests in heart,'” added McSwain.
“Three guiding principals that I lead my life by, first, by integrity, second, transparency and, third, accountability. I hold myself to the highest standards, and I will ensure those under me will do the same,” said Patterson.
“I want to see somebody who has strong leadership qualities who is compassionate but who also understands that policing is changing,” Baldwin said Thursday. “I want somebody who understands the complexities of the social justice issues we face and somebody who is willing to try new things.”
The mayor noted that officials initially picked five top candidates before narrowing it to three, and the other two were white.
“There have not been opportunities for people of color in our police departments, and now it’s their turn. Now, they are stepping up and stepping out and saying, ‘I want to be that leader,’” she said. “They have experienced social and racial injustice. They know what that feels like.”
Before the search, more than 3,400 Raleigh residents responded to a survey about the characteristics they thought should be prioritized in the choice of the next police chief. About two-thirds said they wanted a chief who understood the history of racism and bias in policing.
“I would definitely hope they have a racial equity focus,” said Greear Webb, a member of the Raleigh Police Advisory Board. “Representation certainly does matter, but I think what’s more important is someone who is wiling to enact policies that are truly going to protect all the citizens of that municipality.”
During the forum, candidates were asked how they would address an employee who made a racist comment.
“I would not tolerate that behavior. [I] would conduct an investigation, [and] if it is determined they did, they would be separated from the organization,” said Lowe.
“Any racist comment, it is not representative of who we are or what we expect from any or our officers. Certainly, there will be an investigation done,” said McSwain.
“If we have an incident, in which, an officer or employee is accused of making a racial comment, the first thing we are going to do is an investigation,” said Patterson.
Deck-Brown rose through the ranks of the Raleigh Police Department over a 34-year career and has served as chief since 2013.
Baldwin said going outside the department for the next chief could be helpful.
“Somebody from outside will bring in a new perspective,” she said, calling all three finalists “very strong candidates.”
The City Council plans to select its next chief at its June 15 meeting, the mayor said.
Citing employment protections under North Carolina law, city officials declined to release the names of the other 28 candidates or the number of internal candidates.