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Flint's new police chief gets to work

New Flint Police Chief James Tolbert says he wants to “make Flint safe for the people who live here, (and) the people who visit here”

This is the first day on the job for Tolbert.  He previously served for more than 25 years in the Detroit Police Department, where he rose to Deputy Chief. 

Tolbert says he plans to work with Flint’s stakeholders, businesses and the city’s police officers to see what can be done to deal with the city’s crime problem.  He says the latest data shows the crime situation is improving in Flint, though the city has seen four murders since last Thursday.

Tolbert says to address violent crime in Flint it’s important to look at all the “underlying crimes”, like larceny or breaking and entering, which affect the violent crime rate. 

Flint Emergency Manager Darnell Earley announced Tolbert’s appointment last month; a few days after Public Safety Director Alvern Lock submitted his resignation.    Lock had run Flint’s police department since 2009.   In June, a majority of city police officers said they had “no confidence” in Lock’s leadership. 

“At some point it becomes necessary to do a total assessment of what’s being done and how it’s being done,” Earley says, “We felt at this particular juncture, it was time to go through that exercise.”

Flint has ranked at the top of the FBI’s violent cities list for the past three years.   The city’s murder rate has soared as budget cuts have reduced Flint’s police force.    Dozens of Michigan State Police troopers have been brought in to bolster city police officers patrolling Flint’s streets.     

Flint Mayor Dayne Walling says there are “tools in place that are working” to address Flint’s crime problem.    He says he expects Tolbert will bring “a fresh perspective and some new ideas” to addressing Flint’s public safety needs.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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