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UC grad among finalists for Philadelphia police commissioner

CECH alumna strives to make positive changes in City of Brotherly Love

Dr. Jacqueline Bailey Davis photo

Jacqueline Bailey-Davis

University of Cincinnati alumna Jacqueline Bailey-Davis was a candidate to be the first African American woman named Philadelphia's police commissioner.

Ultimately, that job went this year to another African American woman, Danielle Outlaw. 

But Baily-Davis said she will continue to make a positive impact on her community and her chosen profession.

Baily-Davis graduated from UC's College of Education, Criminal Justice, Human Services, and Information Technology in 1992. She works as a staff inspector for the Philadelphia Police Department.

While Bailey-Davis has a Ph.D., college sometimes seemed like a distant goal. She grew up in South Philly's Passyunk Homes, which at the time had the nickname "Alcatraz." It was one of the city's poorest and most isolated housing projects.

Bailey-Davis witnessed many of her friends and family end up in prison or dead. Yet, Bailey-Davis didn’t waver in her desire to want to help others around her. As her life progressed and as she matured, Bailey-Davis began to realize that education would be a key area of opportunity to give back to her community.

Bailey-Davis had several people who would help her on her educational and career path. One of those people was a high school teacher, who would give her bus fare so she was able to take the SAT exam that would help her win admission to UC.

Bailey-Davis decided to attend after she reconciled with her father who was absent from her entire childhood. He asked her to come live in Cincinnati with him.

Bailey-Davis says she remembered asking him, “What do you suggest I do in Cincinnati?”

He suggested she attend UC. When she asked how she would pay tuition, they struck a deal. After completing her first criminal justice course as an undergraduate student she fell in love with UC's Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice program.

“UC has pretty much been the other half of my home,” Bailey-Davis said.

Jacqueline Bailey Davis and Commissioner

Jacqueline Bailey-Davis

As she made her way through school and continued to live in Cincinnati she describes that her eyes opened to the world around her. Hearing in a class that Philadelphia historically was one of the most corrupt and brutal cities in the United States surprised Bailey-Davis as that is not how she remembered her home. She did a little historical research and discovered it to be true.

“When I came to Cincinnati and took some African American courses my eyes were opened to the world around me. When growing up in Philadelphia I didn’t realize what I had seen or what was around me," she said. "As I became more educated, I became more aware of the situation and the situation my community was in.”

Armed with new knowledge and a new passion, Bailey-Davis said she returned home to Philadelphia and joined the city's police department in an attempt to make change from inside out.

“I thought of myself as superwoman coming from the University of Cincinnati,” she said.

To build her confidence, she gave herself a daily affirmation.

“I’m going to change things, I’m going to become a police officer and I’m going to treat people well and ensure that my fellow officers treat people well. I’m going to fly through the ranks to become police commissioner,” she said.

So she set out on her work.

I understand my role as an African-American woman in law enforcement and the importance of being honest to the communities I serve.

Jacqueline Baily-Davis, Philadelphia police officer and UC alumna

Throughout the years while she was working as an officer and climbing the ranks she was also working as an adjunct professor, an academic advisor, a criminal justice coordinator and a field-placement coordinator. All this work was paired with her desire to arm herself with more knowledge as she earned her graduate degree from Lincoln University near Oxford, Penn.

On top of the heavy workload, Bailey-Davis said she “faced all the ‘isms’ throughout my career – those “ism’s” being racism and misogyny.”

Nevertheless, she was able to command respect through her hard work and dedication to her profession and made change. Even changes that seemed small mattered greatly.

Bailey-Davis noticed how civilians were being treated when they came to court. To her dismay, people were forced to remain outside of the building, even in harsh weather.

“Animals are kept outside, not people. We’re not going to treat people like animals and we won’t leave them outside when it’s extremely hot or cold,” Bailey-Davis said.

Alongside her hard work for change in the department, Bailey-Davis also does her part to help out her community and alma mater, UC. She takes pride in donating to the university that helped her get to where she is today. She’s also had opportunities to help create scholarships and donate to organizations that help people from all walks of life succeed. She has even gone so far as to adopt her cousin, whom she calls her "cou-son."

For those who know her, it wasn't a surprise when she was in the running for the position of police commissioner, a position to that point that had never been held by a woman of color.

A Philadephia Tribune column in November endorsed her for the job, noting that she was a dean's list honoree at UC before she earned her master's and doctorate. Her dissertation was an analysis of complaints against police in Philadelphia and a case for social equity and collaborative governance in police reform.

In particular The Tribune noted that Bailey-Davis had given generously to programs such as UC's Darwin T. Turner Scholars Program, which provides tuition to first-generation college applicants.

"Her philanthropy demonstrates her understanding that broken children are easier to repair than broken adults," The Tribune said.

Ultimately, Bailey-Davis was not chosen for the position; however, when she learned the disappointing news, she called one of her former UC mentors, Dr. P. Eric Abercrumbie, now retired.

When he asked her if she was sad she wasn't picked, she replied that she wasn’t because of something he once told her that always stuck with her.

“Remember what you said to us? ‘I want you all to remember one thing. You can be the most educated, you can have the most experience, you could have done everything perfectly," she said. "There may be things in life that you don’t get an opportunity right away to do.’”

Bailey-Davis has continuously referenced the value of giving back to the community, of pursuing an education and of maintaining her spirituality.

While Bailey-Davis was not selected for police commissioner, she still has an aptitude for being a conduit of positivity between the community where she grew up and the law enforcement community to which she now belongs.

She understands the responsibility and weight of being in that position, she said.

“I understand my role as an African-American woman in law enforcement and the importance of being honest to the communities I serve," she said. "I don’t need any specific title for that work or responsibility. As a human being, I care about justice and the protection of everyone, on both sides. As long as I am placed in positions of influence, I will never stop bridging that gap.”