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Chief Craig gets DPD in order

By Zenobia Jeffries
The Michigan Citizen

DETROIT — Five months into his command of the Detroit Police Department, Chief James Craig announced a reorganization of DPD.

Craig explained at a press conference Oct. 8, the appointments made to his new executive team are a part of his “commitment to ensure the best possible leadership is in place.”

He later told the Michigan Citizen he had other options, but those could have undermined the talent of current officers or continued with the same “inefficiencies” the department has experienced for many years.

“I could have come in and brought my team from outside the police department, but I believed in the DPD. I believed in the talent within the organization,” Craig said in an interview at the new public safety headquarters on Third Street. “I could have done nothing and just remained with what I had been openly critical of, and command an executive team that showed very little sense of urgency toward really addressing the reduction of violent crime and restoring the morale of the men and women of the police department.”

Craig said while that lackluster performance was not reflective of all officers, it did not “represent the future of the organization.”

“It doesn’t mean they’re bad folks,” he said. “Some were tenured who served for many years, but we’re going in a different direction.” Craig said whereas executive appointments in the past were based on relationships, selections for his executive team were based on merit.

“There was a selection process where appointees competed, through a written sample and an interview assessment.”

He added there was also an evaluation of the officers’ daily performance.

“The whole idea of the new objective management team was to improve service,” he said. Gone are the days of late and no response to calls, Craig said. Proof of that was made in the first several weeks of his command when he “de-appointed” civilian executives for not dispatching officers in a timely fashion to emergency calls.

“We had a 50 minute response time (when I came in) and 11 percent clearance rate of homicides.”

Craig said there was an absence of accountability in the department.

“I believe the new management team understands and recognizes the importance of being held accountable and holding those they work with accountable.”

This recognition of accountability, Craig said, represents the new DPD. “Again, this is not reflective of all because I don’t want to paint a picture of everybody who sat in the seat of command were ineffective.”

Craig said while he looks forward to working with the new police commission in the coming months, he understands the city of Detroit is in an emergency situation.

“We were named the most violent city in America in 2012,” he said.

“The Emergency Manager (Kevyn Orr) has delegated the responsibility to run the day-to-day operations to the police chief during this emergency. I don’t write the rules.”

Craig said that doesn’t translate into him not working with or in collaboration with the police commission.

“I’ve always worked under oversight,” he said.

Some citizens and local organizations have criticized Craig for announcing the department’s use of the stop-and-frisk policy.

Craig says he doesn’t understand why some people put more emphasis on constitutional policing (which the department does) and very little emphasis on violence in the city.

“I don’t know why it’s an issue. How many ways can I explain it? We’re a constitutional police agency, when we stop people, we stop them based on reasonable suspicion. We frisk based on reasonable suspicion. And if we have probable cause, we will make an arrest,” said Craig. Craig said Detroit has been a “stop-and-frisk” agency since 1981 and under a consent judgment for over 10 years.

“Nothing has changed,” in that regard, he said. “We will arrest violent predators when we have probable cause.  We stop people based on reasonable suspicion.”

Craig said, however, unlike what many people think, random stops are not reasonable suspicion . “That is alleged misconduct that will be investigated,” he said.

His hope is residents, community members and stakeholders in the city ask the question, “What are we going to do about reducing violence in the city of Detroit because that’s equally as important. We should be concerned about that. I would want as much zeal for that as I would this whole business with stop-and-frisk.”

He acknowledged some citizens’ concerns of the city contracting with the Manhattan Institute, which wrote the stop-and-frisk policy. “The Manhattan Institute does not dictate or direct our policing practices,” he said.

“In fact, the Manhattan Institute has never taken a position that police departments should make illegal search and seizure.”

Craig said he’s passionate and will remain passionate about reducing crime in the city. And he’s already seeing improvements.

“Year to date, we’ve seen a 13 percent reduction in homicide; six percent reduction in violent crime; 5.5 percent reduction overall crime (violent and property); six percent reduction in shooting incidents.”

He credits the reductions to the department’s adoption of CompStat, a computer program that tracks incidents. He said it has been used in other police departments nationwide that  have shown dramatic reduction in crime.

He’s also seen a reduction in response time inching toward his goal of a five-minute response for priority-one calls, or crimes-in-progress calls.

“In some instances, we exceed our goal,” he said. But on average for “in-progress” calls the response time, he said, is six to seven minutes.

In addition to the improvements made, Craig said reverting to precincts instead of districts will assist in community policing efforts.

In addition to the H.E.A.T. initiative to stave off carjacking implemented in September, he recently rolled out a new Neighborhood Police Officer initiative.

Precincts will be divided into sectors, some will have four or five, depending on the size of the precinct. A police officer will be assigned to each sector, he said.

“What we’re planning to do to enhance our community policing effort is ensure we have a police officer connected with that geographic footprint of that precinct. And they’re working with the business community, like the gas stations, liquor stores, and neighborhood watch groups, citizens radio patrol, clergy of course. We want to make sure there’s a point of contact with the police department.”

Part of the NPO’s primary role is to deal with the “quality of life issues,” he said.

Low morale of the rank and file was another issue Craig faced. He attributed that to the 12-hour work days imposed on the officers.

He recently re-instituted eight-hour work days.

“That was done for the sole purpose of improving morale and service delivery,” he said.

Craig said he doesn’t know if when his two-year tenure has been completed if things will go back to the way they were. “I guess if meaningful change is put in place (it can continue). But when you’re talking about changing a culture.  A culture tends to draw back if the new leader is not there, to what is considered the norm.”

A meet and greet for the executive team and commanding officers will be held  Fri. Oct. 25 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Triumph Baptist Church, 2760 E. Grand Blvd.

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