Running a big city police department is challenging in the best of times. Piloting a department through the stormy waters of municipal bankruptcy is a task most daunting. Law Enforcement Technology contributor Keith W. Strandberg spent some time in Detroit and came away impressed—by the city, its renewal and, most of all, its Chief of Police, James. E. Craig.
Craig started his law enforcement career in Detroit in 1977 and, after stints in Los Angeles (28 years), Portland, Maine and Cincinnati, came back to helm the Detroit PD in July 2013. Craig has a Bachelor of Science degree in business management from West Coast University, a Masters of Management in Public Administration from the University of Phoenix, and is currently doing coursework in a doctoral program. In addition, Craig is a graduate of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Academy.
LET: Why did you get into policing?
Craig: I entered into law enforcement for the same reason most people do, I wanted to help people and to do some good in my community. I have worked alongside some of the finest men and women in Detroit, Los Angeles, Portland and Cincinnati, all of whom want to help people and serve their communities, to stand up for people who can’t stand up for themselves. Without men and women like these doing what they are passionate about, this world would be a darker place than it is today.
LET: What is your policing philosophy?
Craig: I believe we are all in this together. In any department I have ever worked, I have never met an officer who wears a cape. I have never met an officer who has super powers.We as police officers need help from the community, from the media, and help from each other. In order to get that help, we need to let society know that we are here for them, that we stand shoulder to shoulder with them in this fight. We must strive to be transparent. We must not be afraid to let people see our flaws; it’s what makes us human. If we can communicate on a common level with the community then we bridge that gap between the citizens and the police department.
LET: What is your opinion of the City of Detroit?
Craig: Let’s be honest; Detroit is hurting right now. We have an unacceptable level of crime, the criminals have gone unchecked for years and we face a devastating financial crisis. We as a city and a department have been mistreated and misrepresented.
Having said that, there is no place I would rather be, there is no other community I would rather serve and there is no better department I would rather lead then the men and women in Detroit. We have the opportunity to do and be something great, to show the world the fighting spirit that has become synonymous with Detroiters.
LET: What do you feel is the secret of your success?
Craig: I feel the key to my success, amongst many things, has been the fortune to be mentored by masters of the craft such as New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton. He taught me so much about the relationship between a police department and the citizens it serves. I’ve said it before; we are all in this together.
LET: What do you like about your job?
Craig: Every day I come in there are always a new set of challenges to overcome, but they are all challenges that I am happy to accept. It’s like a mechanic who rebuilds a classic car—every day he completes a project and gets closer and closer to the finished product. Once the end result is in sight, it becomes that much more exciting. It’s that excitement that keeps me coming in, day after day. Plus I get to work with an amazing group of people.LET: What don’t you like?
Craig: The naysayers who say we’ll never do it, who say the people of Detroit will never dig themselves out of the hole they are in. I make it my mission to prove them wrong a little more every day.
LET: What are the biggest challenges facing the department?