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By Tim Eberly
Atlanta Journal-Constitution

ATLANTA - Cerelyn Davis isn't shy about her ambition.
The woman who goes by the nickname "C.J." wants to be a police chief someday. Colleagues planted the idea in her head during the 1990s, as she earned promotion after promotion in the Atlanta Police Department.
"I had other people see it in me," Davis, 48, said. "Deputy chiefs were saying, 'You're gonna be chief someday.' When it came from them, I thought more seriously about it."
What Davis doesn't know is whether her termination in June --- and her successful fight to get her job back this month --- will affect her career goal. She's afraid so.
"Two resumes on the table. They look exactly alike," she said. "One had some drama, and the other one didn't. It's easy to take the one that didn't."
Davis' drama, she hopes, is almost over.
She was fired for her alleged involvement in a botched sex crimes investigation into the husband of an Atlanta police sergeant. Another police employee was fired and the sergeant, Tonya Crane, resigned before the department decided how to punish her.
Two police detectives accused Davis of telling them not to investigate Crane's husband, Terrill Marion "T.C." Crane, after the department obtained sexual photos of him with underage girls.
A federal grand jury indicted T.C. Crane in November on charges of producing child pornography. The indictment was issued after Atlanta police took no action in the case.
An investigation by the city pointed to Davis largely as the reason. Atlanta Police Chief Richard Pennington first demoted Davis from major to lieutenant, then fired her.
Initially, she was an emotional wreck.
"I was crushed. I was broken," she said. "I'll never forget the day I called my father. I was just in tears."
Davis dug in and fought for her job, though, filing an appeal with the city's Civil Service Board, which has the power to reinstate a city employee's job.
"I'm a fighter," said Davis, who lives in Douglasville and is married to a Fulton County sheriff's deputy. "I was determined that you can't just walk away when something is wrong."
She said she didn't care whether she won or lost. "I just had to fight it."
On Oct. 9, the Civil Service Board ruled in Davis' favor, saying that one of Davis' accusers offered inconsistent testimony and that her testimony was more convincing.
"I was relieved for my family so that we can get back to normal again," she said. "I was glad to know that the system is not flawed completely."
City Attorney Beth Chandler, whose department conducted the investigation, contends that it was comprehensive and factual. "Our report was a solid investigation," Chandler said. "The Civil Service Board's decision is based on their own gathering of data and they made their own decision."
Said Pennington: "She appealed it. She won. I really don't have any feelings one way or another."
Pennington said last week that it was not easy to fire Davis, whom he says did an outstanding job in various assignments, such as in the internal affairs and homeland security units.
Davis' personnel file is filled with mostly positive performance evaluations, dating back to when she joined the department in 1986, according to documents obtained through an Open Records Act request. One supervisor wrote in 1989 that Davis was "one of our most outstanding officers in terms of reliability and dependability. I have complete confidence in her in any situation."
After she was promoted to investigator, she was praised for her positive attitude, communication skills and even her well-groomed appearance, documents show.
Shortly after Davis became a sergeant in 1993, one supervisor wrote she showed some hesitancy in telling subordinates what to do. "She needs to be more assertive when giving out instructions," the supervisor wrote in a performance evaluation.
Davis was disciplined once as a lieutenant. She and dozens of other officers got in trouble for their roles working off-duty jobs during the 2003 NBA All-Star Game weekend in Atlanta.
This time around, Pennington said he was obligated to fire Davis in June because the department determined she had lied. "I had no choice," Pennington said, although she was only suspended over the All-Star Game incident, when the department also determined she wasn't telling the truth.
Pennington brought Davis back to work Thursday. She was assigned to the precinct at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, reinstated as a lieutenant rather than a major, which Pennington said was because he already had filled Davis' vacant major position.
Regardless of her rank, Pennington said he still has confidence in Davis.
"We don't hold any grudges or animosity against that person," he said.
Davis said she's not clinging to grudges either, though she believes the city's investigation was poorly handled and insists she never told the detectives to stop looking into the case.
"I'm going to move on," she said. "I'm not going to have bad feelings. I'm a very spiritual person. I have forgiven them a long time ago."
She's excited to return to work and still wants to be a police chief eventually, in spite of what she calls a "black eye" to her credentials.
"You can't make me whole," she said. "You can't unring a bell. It's already done."

Wire Service
 
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