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New Detroit Chief James Craig: 'I've Come Home'

Detroit's new police chief said he is committed to making the Detroit Police Department a "premier" agency.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and state-appointed Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr announced, officially, today that James Craig would leave his job as police chief in Cincinnati to head the Detroit Police Department.

"I've come home," said Craig, who began his career in 1977 with DPD before moving on to spend 28 years at the Los Angeles Police Department and then to serve as chief in Portland, Maine, and Cincinnati.

Craig said he is excited to come back to his hometown.

"I'm committed to reducing violence in this city," he said. "I'm committed to making this a premier police agency."

Craig said he gave Cincinnati a 30-day notice and will move back and forth between there and Detroit until June 22. He said he has a "verbal agreement" with Detroit and is still in discussions with Orr and the city about his salary.

At today's news conference, Craig said he believes in community policing and having sworn officers out in the field.

"If you're a police officer with a gun and your sworn and your full duty you need to be in the field," he said, noting that Detroit has sworn officers working in non field-related assignments.

Craig said he is also committed to boosting morale in the department, where police officers have endured pay cuts and longer shifts.

This is the second time Craig applied for the position for Detroit's police chief.

In July 2010, after former Detroit Police Chief Warren Evans resigned, Craig sent an e-mail to Bing expressing interest in the job, according to records previously obtained by the Free Press through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Craig is filling the position, vacated when former Chief Ralph Godbee Jr. retired amid a sex scandal. Chester Logan, appointed to serve as police chief in the interim, announced in recent weeks that he would retire after helping make the transition with the new chief.

At the news conference Bing praised Craig as high qualified and said it's time to stop unnecessary criticism and embrace a new leader with significant challenges ahead.

Bing and Orr jointed introduced the new chief, but behind the scenes the choice of who to hire was a clear source of friction between the two, and one Bing criticized indirectly in his speech Tuesday announcing he would not seek reelection.

Bing favored an inside candidate for the job, hoping it would smooth morale. But Orr wanted an outside "change agent" ready to shake up the department and its management, as the city tries to move more uniform officers from desk duty to street patrols and hire cheaper civilian employees for administrative and office jobs now staffed by cops.

The Rev. Jerome Warfield, chair of the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners, said a search firm helping to select candidates for the job reached out to 47 police chiefs around the country and about three dozen applicants were interviewed.

Bing earlier Wednesday announced that AAA Michigan, the insurer, had donated $23,500 so the city's Fire Department can inspect fire ladders on trucks and ground ladders that firefighters can't now use because the city couldn't afford required inspections.

Those inspections were put off because of the city's financial crisis, Bing said.

"We've not had the money to make the necessary investment," Bing said at a news conference outside the Southwest Public Safety Center on Fort Street. "We have to keep our firefighters safe."

But the out-of-commission ladders left firefighters less able to battle blazes in tall buildings.

AAA Michigan President Steve Wagner said the insurer also committed to donating the same amount in 2014, saying it wanted to support Bing's efforts to keep the city going despite its enormous challenges.

Bing praised AAA and other major city and regional businesses, including the Detroit Three automakers, who've donated $22 million in recent months to pay for new police, fire and EMS vehicles as well as for recreation programs, all of which have lost funding as the city's financial crisis grew.

Copyright 2013 - Detroit Free Press

McClatchy-Tribune News Service