A Leader for The People: Raleigh Police Chief, Cassandra Deck-Brown
October 3, 2014
Leader Suite Writer for Black Women in Business
“To whom much is given, much is expected,” is the sage advice offered by Raleigh Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown. As the capital city’s first African-American female police chief, Deck-Brown is both an influential leader and a down-to-earth person, as exemplified in a recent telephone interview.
Deck-Brown has worked for the Raleigh Police Department for what will be twenty-seven years in August 2014. When asked about her professional background, Raleigh’s top cop said that prior experience has afforded her the opportunity to prepare for her current role. “I interfaced with staff and other colleagues. I had mentors along the way,” she explained. “I also had support -- both internal and external helps. A combination of different things have prepared me for this step. Having confidence helps, too.”
Deck-Brown’s approach to leadership begins with a fundamental element. “Confidence, not to be confused with arrogance, comes first,” she said. “Working with my bosses – the city managers – helps. I partner with them for the greater good,” she said. Deck-Brown noted the city’s size (Raleigh is the second largest city in North Carolina and the forty-second largest city in the United States, according to www.togetherweteach.com and Wikipedia.com, respectively). “We partner with other groups, too, such as faith-based communities and educational organizations.”
“On the internal (within the police department), you have to be
approachable,” Deck-Brown continued. “We have 692 officers now and will have 791 in August. I participate as much as I can – I teach, I’m in service training (about nine sessions), and I teach a volunteer class,” she said.
“You have to be accessible. I have conversations in the hallway, participate in the employees’ professional lives. I call employees when they have deaths in their families. I attend the funerals when my schedule permits, or I send someone. Our number one asset is our people.”
Deck-Brown’s approach to her work is a part of her leadership style. “Our supervisors interact with their staff. If you’re not a people person, this is not the field for you. You have to care about people, you have to want to make them better than they are,” she continued. “It doesn’t mean you won’t take a person to jail. You have to want to make a difference. In this profession, you are constantly giving of yourself.” She also cautioned, “You may have to make the ultimate sacrifice.”
There are several people whose leadership styles Deck-Brown admires. “First are my parents, throughout the course of my life,” the humble leader states. “Also, I admire different police chiefs who have served in the Raleigh Police Department – four full-time and two interim chiefs,” she said. “I could take different things from them, in terms of what to do and what not to do. I also admire some national leaders, like Colin Powell, other military leaders and Presidential leaders, like President Barack Obama,” she continued. (Colin Powell is a retired four-star general in the United States Army and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff—source: Wikipedia.com.) The ability to lead comes from more than one source, Deck-Brown explained. “People who are not in leadership positions, and not just in law enforcement, can serve as role models. There are different people I can recall,” she said. “I met Maya Angelou; her work inspires me.” She specifically referred to two of the late writer’s poems, “Still I Rise” and “Phenomenal Woman.”
This people-oriented leader gave the following advice on mentoring the next generation to become leaders. “Identify your goals – what do you want to be?
You can reach your goal if you persevere. You have to work for anything that is worth having. Then, you will have the confidence to go forward. ”
Deck-Brown further advised, “Young folk must be confident that they can set a goal and achieve it. If the most direct route doesn’t work, find another route.”
When asked if there is particular advice for young African-Americans, Deck-Brown responded, “Don’t get so caught up in who you are that you lose sight of your goal. Put your best foot forward. Realize people are competing for the same possibility. Individuals need to put their best foot forward and stand on that. There are things that no one can take away from you, such as your work ethic and your integrity,” this inspirational leader concluded.
About the Writer: Cheryl Deloatch is a freelance writer residing in the northeastern part of North Carolina who is currently seeking full-time employment. Ms. Deloatch has written articles for newspapers, institutional publications, has ghostwritten biographies and worked in other branches of communications. For further information, feel free to contact Ms. Deloatch at firstname.lastname@example.org.