Detroit Police Chief James Craig plans to talk to reporters Monday amid speculation that he will retire after eight years and consider a turn to politics. Carlos Osorio/Associated Press, file

A former police chief in Maine’s largest city may have his sights set on a run for governor of Michigan, the 10th most populous state in the nation.

James Craig, who served as Portland’s chief of police from 2009 to 2011, will meet with reporters in Michigan on Monday amid speculation that he will retire as Detroit’s police chief after serving eight years and make a run for governor, The Associated Press reported.

“I’m a lifelong public servant,” Craig told The Detroit News. “I want to continue to serve.”

The 64-year-old Detroit native has been the city’s police chief since 2013. He returned home after a long police career in Los Angeles and short stints as chief in Cincinnati and Portland. If he does run for Michigan’s top job, Craig, a Republican, would be going up against incumbent Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, in 2022.

Though Craig’s stint in Portland was short-lived, he was well known for being fair-minded, open and accessible. He became Portland’s first African American police chief, succeeding Timothy Burton and Michael Chitwood.

Portland’s former city manager, Joe Gray, hired Craig, a Los Angeles police captain, as the city’s police chief in 2009. Before coming to Maine, Craig served in the Los Angeles Police Department for 27 years. He maintained a relatively low-key profile during his time in Portland, compared to Chitwood, who developed a reputation as a flamboyant leader, but Craig did leave his mark.

In 2010, he invited bars in the Old Port to use text messaging to warn police and other bar owners about rowdy patrons. There was a designated phone number for all participants to use. At the time, Craig said he was not aware of any other city in the country that had taken such an approach to alcohol-related problems. The idea, he said, was borrowed from Las Vegas, where casinos share information about cheating gamblers.

Also in 2010, Craig ordered the Portland Police Department’s special reaction team to stop using its Remington 700 sniper rifles, because one of them started firing unpredictably and a network news report said similar problems elsewhere had caused injuries and prompted lawsuits.

“I don’t want to run the risk of having an accidental discharge like this where it puts an officer’s or community member’s life in danger,” Craig told the Press Herald.

Portland city officials praised Craig for strengthening the city’s commitment to community policing through his senior lead officer initiative. They said he also helped strengthen the positive ties between police and the city’s youth.

In June 2011, Craig was hired as chief of police in Cincinnati, a move that left Assistant Police Chief Michael Sauschuck as acting chief in Portland. Sauschuck eventually was hired as Portland’s police chief before he became commissioner of Maine’s Department of Public Safety.

Craig’s time in Cincinnati was short-lived. He was hired as Detroit’s chief of police in 2013. While in Detroit, Craig maintained a high public profile, regularly speaking to the news media and rarely dodging questions about police incidents, even unflattering ones. Detroit was an exception to the violent protests around the U.S. a year ago after the fatal shooting of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the AP reported.

“He brought us a mighty long way,” activist Malik Shabazz told the AP. “He brought energy, he brought new life, and he reached out to the community.”

Republicans hope Craig decides to challenge Whitmer next year.

“Chief Craig would bring a whole new level of leadership that is exciting,” said Meshawn Maddock, co-chair of the Michigan Republican Party.


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