Retired DPD Police Chief James Craig.
When retired Detroit Police Chief James Craig announced he was running for governor as a Republican in September, he centered his campaign around the narrative that he drove down crime in Michigan's largest city.
But in his last five months as police chief, the city of Detroit was experiencing a merciless rise in violent crime. From January 1, 2021, to May 31, 2021, homicides were up 27% and non-fatal shootings increased 44%.
During the State of the City address Wednesday, Mayor Mike Duggan, a Democrat, took a rare swipe at Craig’s record as police chief, noting that violent crime didn't decline until Craig was replaced with Chief James White
in June 2021.
“The first five months of last year before we hired Chief White, it wasn’t good,” Duggan said.
Duggan suggested that Craig’s combative relationship with law enforcement officials and judges made it more difficult to crack down on guns and violence.
In March 2020, Craig pulled his officers from a Drug Enforcement Administration task force
because the agency “continuously refused” to admit it used an informant who allegedly went on to kill six people. Craig’s beef with the DEA came at a time when drugs, guns, and violence were tearing apart neighborhoods.
On several occasions, Craig also picked petty fights
with judges and the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office
over what he considered lenient sentences and low bonds. It was no secret that the police department’s relationship with prosecutors had turned sour.
When Duggan announced the appointment of White as interim police chief, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy praised the decision and appeared to call Craig “a glory seeker,” a common criticism of the former police chief whose love for television cameras earned him the nickname, “Hollywood Craig.”
“I have worked with James White through the years,” Worthy said. “He is extremely intelligent, competent, and measured. He accepts responsibility and is not quick to blame. In his dealings with me he has been even-tempered and is simply about getting the work done — he is not a glory seeker.”
On Wednesday Duggan suggested that Craig’s failure to develop and retain strong partnerships with law enforcement diminished the police department’s ability to fight violent crime.
“Chief White doesn’t attack the prosecutor or the judges or the Feds, and everybody works together,” Duggan said.
The mayor noted that under White’s leadership, homicides declined 23% and shootings dropped 27%.
“Strategy and teamwork matters. Leadership matters,” Duggan said.
“If you see the violence continue to come down, it’s going to be because the police and the county executive and the prosecutor, the sheriff, the U.S. attorney, and the courts are all working together to protect our residents.”
Since Craig was considered a frontrunner early in the gubernatorial race, he has made serious blunders and lost momentum.
Among Republican candidates, Craig trails metro Detroit businessman Kevin Rinke in fundraising.
Craig's previous political consultant John Yob quit Craig’s campaign, telling Crain’s Detroit Business
, “I didn’t agree with the direction that he wanted to go in the future.”
Craig also failed to fulfill his pledge to get certified as a cop
when he was police chief, and he admitted he fled the scene of a carjacking but never appeared to file a report.
In February, Craig’s campaign sent out a fundraising letter blasting Michigan State Police for being “weak-kneed”
when protesters disrupted his campaign announcement on Belle Isle, but now denies sending it out.
Craig wasn't available for comment.
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