PORTLAND, Maine -- Police Chief James Craig will leave the city to lead Cincinnati's police department, and Assistant Chief Michael Sauschuck will act as chief until Craig's permanent replacement is hired.
Hours after Cincinnati's city manager announced the decision Tuesday, Craig discussed his departure at a news conference. At one point he choked up as he thanked the community for the opportunity to be police chief for the past two years.
"Thank you for giving me the honor ..." he said, stopping to compose himself before finishing succinctly with: "Thank you."
Craig spoke highly of Portland and its police force, saying he is confident that the department's officers and leadership will continue to serve the city well.
"We've done a lot in two years. There's been a lot of changes," he said. "Certainly if you look at the great work by my assistant chief and my commander, every one of them could take this department to the next level," he said, referring to Sauschuck and Cmdr. Vern Malloch, two likely candidates for the chief's position.
Craig recommended that the city look within the department for its next chief. He said the desire for change is not as strong as it was when he was hired to come to Portland from Los Angeles.
Determining the criteria for a new chief and the scope of the search will fall to Mark Rees, who will become Portland's city manager July 20. He is still working as the town manager in North Andover, Mass., where he is in the midst of a search for a new police chief.
The town has opted to promote from within the ranks, considering seven internal candidates. A decision is expected by the end of this summer, after Rees leaves.
Rees could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Acting City Manager Pat Finnigan decided to make Sauschuck acting chief during the search process. Sauschuck has been on the force for 14 years and served in the Marine Corps before that. Craig promoted him from lieutenant to commander, then to assistant chief.
Immediately after Craig's news conference, Sauschuck talked about how the department will function after Craig leaves next month. "We're not going to lose any traction here," he said.
Sauschuck credited Craig with bringing a great deal of innovation to the department, in new programs and enhancements to existing ones. He said that as acting chief, he is unlikely to make significant policy changes. Day-to-day policing will not be affected by Craig's departure, he said.
Lt. Gary Hutcheson, president of the Superior Officers Association, which represents lieutenants and sergeants, said the supervisors will work well with Sauschuck. "We've all got faith in him. We all know him," Hutcheson said.
Eric Nevins, president of the Police Benevolent Association, which represents patrol officers, said he hopes the city will consider outside applicants as well as internal candidates in choosing a new chief.
Speaking of Sauschuck, Nevins said, "He's a fair person and does an outstanding job, but he hasn't been assistant chief very long. ... I think it's only fair we look at all of our options."
Rachel Talbot Ross, president of the NAACP's Portland branch, said Craig was a valuable role model for young people of color and that his performance helped knocked down stereotypes.
Ross said it will be important for Rees to conduct a national search for a new chief, particularly because he is coming from a smaller town and would benefit from seeing the range of talent that is available.
"Of course we have the talent here," she said of people in the department who might be selected as chief, and a national search would not suggest otherwise. "If the best is within our city, that will show through in that process."
Craig was hired two years ago after Chief Tim Burton left. Burton had been chief for three years and was preceded by Michael Chitwood, who was chief for 12 years.
"James worked hard to build a strong foundation of community involvement within the department, and you can see the results of his work in every neighborhood," said Mayor Nicholas Mavodones.
Craig's legacy includes youth and community outreach initiatives and his emphasis on dedicating police resources based on detailed analysis of crime statistics. Craig said that analyzing when and where various types of crimes were happening enabled officers to do more targeted enforcement and be more proactive, ultimately reducing violent crime.
Craig's initiatives included:
--Assigning senior lead officers to cover separate sections of the city to promote communication and address quality-of-life issues.
--Starting a youth services division, which included Police Explorers, athletic programs and plays in the high schools.
--Hiring a neighborhood prosecutor to focus on enforcing ordinances that affect residents' quality of life.
--Overseeing development of the department's strategic plan.
Many of Craig's ideas were transplanted to Portland from Los Angeles, where he was a police officer for 28 years.
That big-city experience and his community outreach initiatives in Portland helped Craig rise to the top of Cincinnati's pool of 43 candidates from across the country, including some from inside the department.
Because of a charter change made in 2002, Cincinnati's city manager was allowed to consider candidates from outside the department for the first time.
Craig will succeed Tom Streicher, who retired in March. He will be Cincinnati's first African-American police chief. He also was Portland's first African-American chief.
Craig had high praise for the Portland police force, and a message to the community: "Expect nothing but the best from your police department."
McClatchy-Tribune News Service