New Police Chief Kem Braden takes the helm of the Fayetteville Police Department
Kemberle “Kem” Braden was installed as Fayetteville's 25th police chief in a Friday afternoon ceremony in the City Council chamber.
The event was standing-room only, with some people sitting in an overflow room across the hall.
Braden, who received a standing ovation after being sworn in, said with a smile he was skeptical the installation would fill the chamber.
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“I’m just overwhelmed by the amount of people here today,” he said, “and I thank everyone that’s here.”
Braden joined the department in 1996 and thanked the department under Chief Ron Hansen for giving a “22-year-old kid” an opportunity right out of Basic Law Enforcement Training.
Braden said he spoke to a police academy class recently and promised them the same opportunity, to have a career they could be proud of after they retire.
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‘It all depends on us,” he said. “To me, today is not the culmination of my career, but the start of the next chapter. I look forward to working with everybody in this room.”
Mayor Mitch Colvin. several City Council members and former police chiefs, including Tom Bergamine and Harold Medlock, were in attendance.
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Braden was sworn in by Cumberland County Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Jim Ammons, who has known Braden since 1996. Braden’s wife, Beth, stood by his side. They have two adult children and two grandchildren.
After the swearing-in, Ammons joked with the chief: “Kiss your wife, shake my hand and get it right.”
Braden is the first Asian-American police chief in Fayetteville's history and has lived here for 45 years. His father served in Special Forces and was stationed at Fort Bragg.
He has held multiple roles in his 27-year career with the Fayetteville Police Department; he supervised a Gun and Gang task force and served 22 years on the emergency response team. His previous job was as an assistant police chief.
Braden becomes the top cop when the Police Department has experienced some turbulence.
Former Chief Police Gina Hawkins, who retired, received some criticism for the department’s handling of downtown protests on May 30, 2020 after the death of George Floyd. There were no injuries, but riots damaged several properties, and two men were charged with setting fire to the historic Market House.
The department is also trying to reduce a high murder rate, which has plagued many cities since the COVID-19 pandemic.
Braden, when he was a finalist for the job, said one tactic he would try to bring down violent crime is to track repeat offenders.
He said on Friday he had been asked a lot of questions over the past several weeks and several days about his plans and what changes he would make.
“It’s all yet to be determined,” he said. “I’m not trying to rush anything too fast. I truly want to take my time and figure out the things that need to happen so that we can be effective in moving forward as an agency and as a community.”
Myron B. Pitts can be reached at email@example.com or 910-486-3559.
This article originally appeared on The Fayetteville Observer: Kem Braden takes the helm of Fayetteville Police Department