YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — As a teenager growing up on the South Side, Carl Davis listened to a recruiting pitch to join the city police department.
Friday, he was sworn in as police chief, replacing former Chief Robin Lees who left earlier this month.
Davis has been on the force for 35 years and stressed community engagement in his remarks after he was sworn in by Mayor Jamael Tito Brown, but he said afterward it was that day he heard the pitch by some city police officers at the old South Side Library that started him down the path to be a police officer.
“They planted the seed in me,” Davis said. “That always stuck with me.”
Davis has already proposed a body camera program for the department’s roughly 150 officers, as well as projects like an after-hours basketball league for youth or holding town hall-style meetings with residents.
Davis acknowledged that because of social distancing guidelines imposed by the coronavirus pandemic, some of the town halls may have to be held via Zoom or the basketball league may need different hours.
But he said he wants to act as soon as possible to get community members not only involved, but to hear their suggestions and concerns.
One thing Davis said he did want to continue is special patrols aimed at finding guns. Lees began the patrols in October after the city saw 19 people shot that month. Thus far, the patrols have generated over 40 arrests and the seizure of 44 guns.
Davis said the patrols have been working and he wants them to continue, crediting the officers on the patrols and Lt. Brian Butler, who is leading them up.
For the month, the city has seen three shootings, two of them fatal. In January of 2020, the city saw two shootings with one of those being fatal. Since the patrols have started the city has seen 16 shootings total, with five of those being fatal.
Lees had planned to hire more officers later this year, and Davis said he wants to see that happen as well.
Davis also said he would like to see more beat officers getting out and interacting with the community if they have some downtime answering calls, although he stressed he thinks they do a great job when they are on the road.
In his time on the force, Davis has been a patrol officer, detective and a member of the department’s Internal Affairs Division, where he worked before he was promoted from detective sergeant to chief. The father of two and grandfather of three, he graduated from South High School and has been married for 38 years. He attended Youngstown State University and Kent State University Trumbull Branch, where he received his Ohio Peace Officers Training Academy certification from.
In the 1990s when the city’s homicide rate exploded from an average of 23 a year to 49.2 a year, Davis was a member of a special group that ran special patrols in housing projects and other hot spots in the city that saw a lot of violence fueled by the city’s drug trade.
Davis said the detail could at times be dangerous, and there would be gunfire directed at police in some areas when they would show up.
“I can recall times I could feel the bullets go past my head and take the bark off the trees,” Davis said.
Working for several years in internal affairs is an advantage because Davis said he knows the hiring process for new officers and it is a good opportunity to mold them into the kind of officers that the city needs.
In his remarks, Davis said he sees his job as connecting the dots to implement his vision on how the department should be run.
Brown thanked members of the department for the job they do and said he was happy to have Davis as chief because of his commitment to the department and the city.