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Former Detroit Police Chief James Craig announces exploratory committee for 2022 gubernatorial run

Former Detroit Police Chief James Craig
YouTube screenshot

Former Detroit Police Chief James Craig says he's launching an exploratory committee to run for governor in 2022. That committee allows a candidate to begin fundraising and spending money.

According to a press release, the Republican will likely make a formal announcement after Labor Day.

Craig, a Detroit native, retired as police chief in June after more than four decades in law enforcement.

Here's what you need to know about the potential candidate:

A long history in law enforcement

Craig was born and raised in Detroit. He got a job with the Detroit Police Department in the late 1970s, but Craig’s position was cut in a department downsizing. In 1981, he took a job with the Los Angeles Police Department. He remained in LA for 28 years.

From 2009-2011 he served as Police Chief of Portland, Maine. And in 2011, Craig was selected as the first Black Chief of Police in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Craig rejoined the Detroit Police Department as chief on July 1, 2013.

As Detroit’s police chief

Former Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr announced that Craig would be filling the role as chief as Michigan’s largest city was going through bankruptcy. Craig said he was committed to reducing violence and making the Detroit Police Department a premier police agency.

Detroit had high crime rates, long response times, police precincts that were not open to citizens after 4 p.m., and uniformed officers who were demoralized and spread thin working 12 hour shifts. But Craig said that didn't deter him.

“I was excited about coming home because I really believe we can make that turn and we have. I’m excited about what we are seeing today,” he told Stateside one year into his role as chief.

“He brought us a mighty long way. He brought energy, he brought new life, and he reached out to the community,” activist Malik Shabazz previously told The Associated Press.

According to the FBI's Crime in the United States report, in 2019, Detroit ranked as the most violent of cities with more than 100,000 residents nationally. This despite a 3% decline in violent crime in Michigan’s largest city from 2018.

In the Detroit News, Detroit Police Chief James Craig put much of the blame on illegal guns and people’s inability to settle disputes peacefully.

"A lot of our violence is argument-based," Craig said. "We've seen significant increases in that. It was up last year, but it's gotten worse this year, with a lot of stress related to COVID."

Under Craig’s leadership Detroit dramatically expanded digital surveillance-based policing through the use of Project Greenlight. The network of cameras in hundreds of businesses throughout the city feed video footage to the city’s Real Time Crime Center.

Craig and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan have lauded Project Greenlight as a driving force behind why Detroit’s crime rate steadily declined throughout most of Craig’s tenure as Chief; Michigan State University research on that supposed link is more inconclusive.

Craig also controversially spearheaded the use of facial recognition technology in Detroit’s Real Time Crime Center. Critics say the technology isn’t reliable, especially when it comes to accurately identifying people of color, and can lead to false arrests.

Craig’s first campaign video, which shows him driving around Detroit, credits himself as the architect of the Detroit Police Department’s turnaround, and says community trust is why the city didn’t experience the same type of violent upheaval that other cities had after the police murder of George Floyd in May 2020.

“We know Seattle burned. We know Portland burned,” Craig says. “Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia--burned. And even some cities here in Michigan. But not Detroit.”

“This is about leading from the front, keeping people safe which is a core responsibility, solving problems...that’s what Michigan needs.”

But Craig is not universally-beloved in Detroit. Detroit Will Breathe, a group that formed in the wake of Floyd’s murder, filed a federal lawsuit accusing Detroit Police of excessive force and officer misconduct during summer 2020 protests. The city struck back with a counter-suit, accusing the protesters of fomenting a violent “civil conspiracy.” The initial federal lawsuit is still ongoing, but a federal judge dismissed the city’s counterclaim. Craig has previously referred to some anti-police brutality protesters as “Marxists.”

On serving in the future

Republicans had hoped Craig would decide to challenge Governor Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, in 2022.

“Chief Craig would bring a whole new level of leadership that is exciting,” said Meshawn Maddock, co-chair of the Michigan Republican Party in May.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan has said there was no question which candidate for governor he’d be supporting in 2022.

“I’m not bright enough to know a year from now who's all going to be running on the Republican or Democratic side, but I know for sure whoever's running I'll be strongly supporting Gretchen Whitmer,” he said.

“I’m a lifelong public servant,” Craig previously told The Detroit News. “I want to continue to serve.”

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Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
Paulette is a digital media reporter and producer for Michigan Public. She started as a newsroom intern at the station in 2014 and has taken on various roles in that time, including filling in as an on-air host.
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