CINCINNATI — James Craig was named Detroit’s new police chief on Tuesday, returning him to the city in which he began his law enforcement career 36 years ago.
Since starting in Detroit in 1977, Craig has served in Los Angeles; Portland, Maine; and Cincinnati, where he has been police chief since 2011.
Craig’s resignation is effective June 22, said Cincinnati City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr said Craig has the experience necessary to fight crime and get the department out from the oversight of a court-appointed monitor.
Craig succeeds Chester Logan, who has led Detroit’s police department on an interim basis since Ralph Godbee stepped down in October when details surfaced of a sexual relationship with a subordinate.
Detroit has had about a dozen police chiefs since the early 1990s and five in the past five years. Several were forced out amid allegations of wrongdoing. Godbee himself was hired to replace Warren Evans, who was fired following an affair with a female officer who allegedly also had a relationship with Godbee.
Craig was not Detroit Mayor Dave Bing’s first choice for the job. Bing said Tuesday in a statement that his office and the Detroit City Council did not make the final decision on naming the new chief. That fell to Orr.
Bing said his choice would have been someone currently on Detroit’s police force.
“But I will work with James Craig, because his success means that we’ll do a better job with crime-related issues,” Bing said. “It is important that our police department is receptive to Craig’s leadership, because without their involvement you may have a great leader and no followers, and you will fail.”
Craig’s work will be cut out for him as he’ll be forced to deal with one of the nation’s highest violent-crime rates. Last year, Detroit recorded 386 criminal homicides, a 12 percent increase over 2011.
Overall crime in the city was down in 2012, but high-profile street robberies, carjackings and shootings outside gas stations increased the public’s call for more police protection. The city, however, is mired in a financial crisis and is being run by a state-appointed emergency manager.
“When I look at the city of Detroit, I’m biased. It’s home, and it’s a great city. And yes it’s had its challenges,” Craig said. “That’s no secret. … One of the things that concerned me is the level of violence in Detroit. I know that we will turn that around.
“This is not something I think. It’s something I know.”
Craig was Cincinnati’s first black police chief and its first chief from outside the department.
Craig tried to make changes to the traditionally more rigid police culture in the Ohio city, including maintaining an open-door policy for the roughly 1,000 officers and easing rules about officers’ attire and work schedules.
Craig served for 28 years in Los Angeles, where he experienced the 1992 riots that began after four officers were acquitted of almost all charges in the videotaped beating of Rodney King. Also while in L.A., Craig was a commander for the BET Awards Show, the Emmys and the celebrations that accompanied Lakers championships.
Craig led the Portland, Maine, police department of about 200 officers from 2009 until he took over in Cincinnati.
“When I look at the city of Detroit and I look at the crime and I look at the (low) morale in the police department — another factor that’s very important is the credibility that the police department must have in the eyes of the community, and the best way to do that is to establish that relationship. … We will have to go in and really reduce violence. That’s the priority,” he said.