Share this Post
On a summer day during a break from studying criminal justice at East Carolina University, Cassandra Deck-Brown was sitting on her grandmother’s steps in Philadelphia as a police car drove down the street. The car stopped at a disturbance taking place at the other end of the block. A woman police officer got out, dispersed the crowd that had gathered, addressed the dispersing members, made an arrest and drove away. That’s when Deck-Brown realized she wanted to work in law enforcement.
After she graduated the following spring, Deck-Brown applied for a police officer position in Raleigh, about an hour away from her hometown in Franklin County. She was accepted and entered the police academy on August 3, 1987. In 2013, Deck-Brown was sworn in as Raleigh police chief, the first African American woman to hold the position.
Becoming the head of Raleigh’s police department was a long and intense process, Deck-Brown says, and it’s not a job she takes lightly. After graduating from the academy—there were four women in her class, out of twenty students total—she patrolled like all officers do starting out. Soon, executive staffers within the department approached her about becoming a crime prevention and community policing officer. Deck-Brown rose through the ranks to become a detective, a sergeant in 1997, a lieutenant, a captain, a major in 2006, a deputy chief, interim chief and then, finally, police chief seven years ago. As head of the police force, it is Deck-Brown’s duty to oversee both the safety of the people in Raleigh as well as the officers within her department, along with ensuring they have the training and resources the officers need to serve.
“Being able to manage an organization this size in a city this size comes with tremendous responsibility,” Deck-Brown says. “I often say ‘to whom much is given, much is required.’”
Deck-Brown also focuses on community engagement and forming partnerships with faith communities, youths and non-government entities. It’s these partnerships and relationships that she is most proud of as police chief. “The relationships we have built in this city have been phenomenal in a lot of ways,” she says. “Those same relationships have not only benefited me, but this department as a whole. They have afforded us to be recognized for the great work we’ve done and an opportunity to learn when we’ve not done the best work.”
Last year, Deck-Brown and RPD held the city’s first youth summit, gathering nearly 300 kids to listen to keynote speakers, participate in breakout sessions and workshops and to learn from exhibitors who offered insights on career paths within the police department, internships and other opportunities. Deck-Brown also helped launch the “I Care” (Interfaith Community Ambassadors for Responsive Engagement) team within the department, which represents various faith communities throughout the city, and recently held in-person roundtable meetings across Raleigh to start conversations with members of the community. “Too often people don’t necessarily see the human side of a police officer,” Deck-Brown says. “And when you can sit down and have a conversation, you realize that he or she is a mother, or a father, a sister, or brother; there is a person in that uniform who cares, who has compassion and integrity and a desire to help others.”
Deck-Brown says she is humbled and honored to be Raleigh’s police chief. It’s a position few women in the nation hold and Deck-Brown strives to make an impact on the local community and leave a legacy for the officers who serve alongside her.
“I happen to be an African American woman who happens to be a Raleigh police officer, who happens to be the police chief in the capital city of the state of North Carolina,” Deck-Brown says. “With that, who happens to be a mother, a sister and a grandmom. Once we can see people for who we are, and not just the uniform we wear, we have an opportunity to appreciate each other far more.”
The Cardinal at North Hills celebrates the Art of Living Well® and is proud to commission this special editorial series. To learn more visit, lifeatthecardinal.com.
Share this Post