Police Chief James Craig: Interest in Detroit not reflection on Cincinnati

Craig says no official offer from Detroit made

CINCINNATI - A decision is expected this week of who will be the next police chief in Detroit, an official familiar with the process confirmed to WCPO Digital Monday.

“We do expect and hope a decision is made within the week, we really do,” said The Rev. Jerome Warfield, the chair of the Detroit Board of Police Commission – the civilian body which governs the police department there. “He [Chief James Craig] is a great candidate, just like the other four, but there are some unique qualities that he has that may be some of the others do not.”

And while no formal offer has been made to Cincinnati police Chief James Craig, a Detroit News column, citing unidentified sources, said over the weekend Craig has been picked to be the next police chief. Craig, a Detroit native, made it clear Monday he is interested in the position because it’s his hometown and it’s not an indictment on Cincinnati.

Craig interviewed for the Detroit position in 2010, before becoming Cincinnati’s 13th chief in August 2011 – the first non-internal hire in the city’s history.

“The speculation is that I had the offer and I was going to announce it today [Monday], I can’t announce something that I don’t have,” Craig said following a radio interview with 1230 AM. “Here’s what factual, I have not been presented an offer.”

No Detroit officials have told Craig an offer is an imminent either, he said.

“I don’t know if I’m going to get an offer, I don’t want to even speculate on that,” Craig said. “This is not an indictment on this city, I have a lot of passion and I’m committed to the city – I’m not running from anything.”

Craig squashed the notion he is seeking employment elsewhere because he refused to take a state-required test, which would grant him police powers.

Craig has long contended his three decades of experience should be enough. Others, Craig claims, have labeled him an opportunist after more money.

He rebuffed that accusation, too.

“For those folks who look at this in a very narrow way, shame on you. Get off of it, the test has nothing to do with it,” Craig said. “If I was looking for money, would I have come to Cincinnati?”

Craig’s current salary is $135,000, but even Mayor Mark Mallory has already tried to assuage Craig from considering any other job by offering extra vacation days for him to take more trips to Detroit, he said.

“Given the dynamics here in Cincinnati, I wouldn’t consider taking money, it’s just not an option as we’re facing layoffs,” Craig said. “The mayor appealed to me to and said ‘what if we offered you a couple extra vacation days for to visit your parents?’”

Craig hasn’t been presented with anything formal from Cincinnati officials, he said.

Craig has made City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. aware of Detroit’s interest and has received feedback suggesting no one wants him to leave. Last month, city Councilman Christopher Smitherman along with PG Sittenfeld and Charlie Winburn, all of which are on council’s public safety committee, circulated a motion that Dohoney “immediately consider retaining” Craig “for the great and excellent work he has done.”

“As far as that motion, I’ve wanted Chief Craig to feel maximally supported, or an all-hand-on-deck effort to make him feel appreciated here and make him want to stay here,” Sittenfeld told WCPO Digital on Monday.

Sittenfeld recognizes why Detroit is attractive to Craig, too.

“It’s hard when you have family on the other side of the ledger, it’s a tricky balance,” Sittenfeld said. “If ends up leaving, it’ll be entirely about family and returning to his hometown and returning to a city that needs him – I don think it’s something Cincinnati did wrong.”

Warfield on Craig: He has ‘unique qualities'

Warfield mentioned a few qualities that bode well for Craig’s prospects of becoming the next police chief in a phone interview with WCPO Digital Monday.

Craig’s past experience in streamlining a command staff is appealing, Warfield said. Craig audited the department when assumed command in 2011, and took a top-to-bottom approach to make the department more efficient.

“His experience in collapsing a command structure that may seem to be too heavily stacked on the administration side is valuable,” Warfield said.

Warfield cited Craig’s Los Angeles work fighting gang violence as being “very interesting to us.” From 2005 to 2009, Craig served as a captain supervising the homicide and gang unit for the Los Angeles Police Department.

And Craig’s past experience supervising under tight financial circumstances is attractive, Warfield said. Detroit has had its fair share of financial woes much like Cincinnati. In March, the city was taken over by the state and established an emergency manager to navigate its financial troubles.

Only 21 months into his tenure, Craig said any decision to leave for Detroit has nothing to do with Cincinnati, despite the prospect of 150 police layoffs if the city cannot fill its $35 million budget deficit.

“Certainly, there are transferable environmental issues, for lack of a better term, where he should be able to fit more easily in, I think,” Warfield said.

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