Reggie Burgess faced the mayor and lifted his right hand.
"I shall strive to justify this trust as a law enforcement officer to the best of my ability," Burgess repeated after Mayor Keith Summey, "so help me God."
Cheers of "chief, chief, chief!" followed inside North Charleston City Hall on Thursday, where a crowd of hundreds spilled out into the hallway. Burgess' wife pinned the chief's badge onto Burgess' chest.
When Burgess took to the microphone, he asked everyone in the room to do one thing.
"Continue to pray for us," he said.
Burgess was sworn in as North Charleston's first black police chief at Thursday's City Council meeting. Burgess is the city's first police chief who began his career on the force. Summey said his city creates leaders.
Burgess told the crowd that he plans to improve communication and relationships between the police and the city's communities. When that happens, violent crime will drop.
U.S. Sen. Tim Scott was among the new chief's supporters on Thursday. He, too, grew up in North Charleston, and played football against Burgess. When Burgess called to give Scott the news that he had been promoted to police chief, Scott caught the first flight home from Washington, D.C., to attend Thursday's ceremony.
Scott said seeing a friend become chief of police was a blessing.
"I just got chills for him, honestly," Scott said. "I think the future is brighter with him as the police chief here."
Burgess, 52, was a football star at Bonds Wilson High School, where he accepted a scholarship to play football in college. He earned two degrees from Claflin University. He never fulfilled his childhood dream of playing for the NFL, so he returned to his hometown, North Charleston.
Burgess married his high school sweetheart, Tracy Burgess, and joined the North Charleston Police Department as a street cop. He rose through the ranks and in 2004 became captain. In 2014, he rose to assistant police chief under his predecessor, former Chief Eddie Driggers.
Burgess worked many late nights at the beginning of his career, his daughter Kristen Burgess said.
"I always used to tell him before he'd leave, "Be safe, I love you,'" his 22-year-old daughter said. She recently graduated from the University of South Carolina with a criminal justice degree.
"'Proud' is an understatement," she said. "He's been wanting this for awhile and he got it."
Burgess' mother said her son's most important quality was his dedication to his faith. Burgess has been a member of Royal Baptist Church since the age of 8. During Thursday's ceremony, a pastor led the room in a prayer, during which he asked God to help turn the tide in North Charleston.
When it was time for Burgess to speak, he told the story of childhood homes, shared between Union Heights, George Legare Homes and finally, Liberty Hill, a neighborhood established in 1871 by freed black slaves. He told stories of playing football and marrying Tracy. In closure, he asked everyone to pray for the police department.
"It's not an easy job, and I'm going to tell you how hard it is," Burgess said. "Whenever an officer stops a car on these streets — this is real — if an officer happens to be white, and he stops a young black man, that officer who is white is automatically gonna think that that young man is going to think negative things about him."
He asked the crowd what happens when both men have an inner conflict based on racial profiling.
The crowd answered, "conflict."
"That's right," Burgess answered. "We are not robots. We are flesh and blood ... We gotta be given the benefit of the doubt. Don't judge us by the color of our skin or the color of our uniform."