Durham City Manager Wanda Page announced Monday that a veteran Triangle law enforcement leader will become the city’s new police chief.

Patrice Andrews, who has served at the helm of the Morrisville Police Department since 2016, will join the Durham force in November, according to a city press statement.

Andrews will become the second African American woman to lead the department, replacing Durham’s first, Cerelyn “CJ” Davis, whose five-year stint ended on June 1 when she left to become chief of police in Memphis, Tennessee.

Page said that during an “intensive interview process” with three other finalists, Andrews emerged as the candidate who possesses the right combination of leadership skills, training, and knowledge to lead the department. 

“I am confident that Chief Andrews is the right leader for Durham, where she spent most of her law enforcement career,” Page said. “I am happy to welcome her back to Durham, where she also has deep family roots and developed lasting relationships in the community while working and living here.”

The city’s choice marks a return to home and family, along with a return to where Andrews started her career in law enforcement more than 25 years before.

A graduate of North Carolina Central University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, it was here in the Bull City where Andrews rose through the ranks of the police department, starting in 1997, when she walked the beat as a patrol officer.

Andrews was promoted to district commander, earned the rank of captain, and supervised units within the Criminal Investigation Division, including the Special Victims, Homicide, Domestic Violence, and Fraud units, according to the release.

Andrews’ duties included responding to major incidents reported to the department, including homicides.

The police department also relied on Andrews’ technical prowess and strategies she helped to develop that assisted the Forensics and Intelligence/Crime Analysis Unit with crime investigations.

In the release Page also noted that Andrews has amassed a battery of experiences while serving as a sergeant with the police department’s High Enforcement Abatement Team, a street-level gang and narcotics enforcement unit. Her previous work with the department includes serving as a detective corporal, investigative corporal, police corporal, and investigator with the police department’s Special Operations Division.

While serving as chief of the Morrisville police, Andrews was responsible for all operations of the department, started a body camera program, and worked with surrounding agencies to develop and implement a response to the death of George Floyd, which culminated in Morrisville’s adoption of the Project 8 Can’t Wait recommendations for less restrictive use of force policies.

Following Floyd’s death, Andrews said she was “outraged, disgusted and filled with an overwhelming range of emotions that cannot be articulated properly.”

She added that Floyd’s murder and subsequent global protests sparked a renewal in the Morrisville community “to ensure that we are operating within guidelines both by policy and practice.”

Andrews’ skill set will be tested during a period when the city is being plagued by an increase of ongoing, oftentimes deadly gun violence.

Last month, the police department reported 32 people had been killed as a consequence of gun violence. By comparison, 22 people were shot dead during the same period last year, and 26 in 2019.

Similarly, police responded to 579 shootings by mid-September. There were 688 last year, and 493 in 2019. The gunfire left 198 shot; 225 were struck last year, and 132 during the same period in 2019.

The shootings also reached a dismal low point late last month when three people were slain over a 48-hour period in South Durham.

As previously reported by the INDY, deadly gunshots from the real world punctured the nurturing academic village at N.C. Central University, killing two men in a school parking lot while a football game was taking place on the campus. 

Days after the fatal shootings prompted NCCU Chancellor Johnson O. Akinleye to plead with city, county, and state officials to devote more resources and attention to the issues of crime in the Bull City. 

Two days later, another shooting in broad daylight took the life of another man, just across the street from the university’s campus.

Page, in the release, noted that during the interview process, which included a panel of the city’s business, faith-based and law enforcement leaders, Andrews consistently demonstrated that she would be a “progressive and innovative 21st century policing leader.” 

Andrews, in the release, called her return to Durham “a full-circle moment for me during a pivotal time” for the city and police department. 

“I am committed to working collaboratively with the City of Durham management team, members of the Durham Police Department, and the entire Durham community to build upon established successes and identify innovative strategies to reduce violent crime while addressing recruiting, retention, and morale,” she said. “Durham is a vibrant, inclusive community with a rich civil rights history where all are welcome to live, work, and play. I look forward to the future that we will create together.” 

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