Detroit is in a political and public safety transfix, which has severely impacted the motion of the local government machine in delivering better and more effective city services for the more than 700,000 people who reside in this iconic city.
Public safety has been the dominant issue for most residents and businesses. And it is ridiculous that this city in the last four years has had four police chiefs, two of whom left in embarrassment after it was discovered they were having affairs with their subordinates, which became a distraction for the functioning of the number one security apparatus in the city, the Detroit Police Department.
In the next week or so, a new chief will be named to lead the men and women in blue at 1300 Beaubien. His name, widely reported, is James Craig, the current chief of police in Cincinnati.
Craig, himself a former Detroit police officer, if he accepts an offer will become the fifth police chief in Detroit in less than five years, unheard of anywhere. One would expect to have stable leadership at the most sensitive department of local government.
Chief Craig, who hails from the city, is anxious to come back and waiting for an offer. He told the Cincinnati media that Detroit is home for him. That means an offer would mean a homecoming appointment, one that would be hard to beat.
“What I did say is Detroit is home. James Craig is not running from Cincinnati because of a test he decided not to take. (Others) are saying I’m an opportunist. That’s not true,” Craig said. “Yes, it is an opportunity, but what is a major draw is it’s … home. Hard to compete with that.”
Apparently Craig is viewed as the best candidate to lead the troubled police department, which has been dealing with morale issues along with dwindling resources to fight the mountainous crime issues plaguing the city.
It is refreshing to see someone like Craig optimistic about accepting a crucial position in Detroit. It will also be equally challenging to see how under his leadership this city can make evidence-based reforms and arrest crime.
When I heard that another chief of police was being sought, my natural reaction was, “Again! Let’s see how long this new top cop will last,” because it is damaging for a department that is struggling with morale and cuts to its resources to have another chief who might possibly only last for no more than a year.
I’m not suggesting that Craig, if appointed, will last only a year, but it is logical that a new mayor will bring in a new chief. However, if Craig does an outstanding job that lifts the department from the current tide and tackles public safety in an effective fashion, he could stay on board with a new administration to ensure a smooth transition.
Detroit’s current police chief, Chester Logan, announced he would be retiring.
Confidence in leadership at the top of the police department is important for the success of any crime fighting strategy.
Community policing should be at the top of the agenda of the new police boss because fighting crime should not be left to police officers alone. Repeatedly we’ve seen how the collaboration between law enforcement and the community not only builds trust but also enhances the work of the police in rooting out crime syndicates and averting possible crime that would have warranted massive resources to tackle.
But the Detroit Police Department is unique in that it sits at the heart of a local government that is going through transformation because of financial distress. The delicate balance for the department’s leader is to be innovative and steadfast in fighting crime and at the same time responding to the financial challenges of the city.
With only 3,000 officers, some have argued that it is hard to fight crime in a city of 700,000. But with new police cars and ambulance trucks donated recently by Detroit business leaders at the urging of Mayor Dave Bing, DPD should be equipped to more effectively respond to criminal activity.
The experience some have with DPD is that often there is a no-show when emergency calls are made to the police, because meager resources prevent them from responding to many of the calls.