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Public records: Gubernatorial candidate James Craig wasn't a licensed officer as chief of DPD

Former Detroit Police Chief James Craig in a portrait wearing a uniform
Courtesy of Detroit Police
Michigan gubernatorial candidate James Craig was not a licensed officer in Michigan during his tenure as Detroit police chief, according to public records obtained by Michigan Radio.

Michigan gubernatorial candidate James Craig was not a licensed law enforcement officer in the State of Michigan during his tenure as Detroit police chief. His certification status is “lapsed,” according to public records obtained by Michigan Radio.

While police chiefs are not required by state law to be certified through the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards, or MCOLES, the certification is required to fulfill duties of law enforcement such as issuing citations, making arrests, and serving warrants.

“MCOLES certification is not required to serve as the Detroit Police Chief,” the Craig campaign said in a statement. “Chief Craig had a lengthy, proven record of law enforcement excellence, including leading police departments, prior to being asked to serve as the chief of the Detroit Police Department.”

When Craig returned to Detroit as police chief in 2013, he indicated through a spokesperson that he planned to complete the certification process through MCOLES.

“Chief James Craig is a veteran police officer with over 36 years of experience,” Kelly Miner, a spokesperson for DPD said in a statement to The Detroit Free Press at the time. “MCOLES certification is not required to serve as a police chief, yet Chief Craig voluntarily intends on completing the process to become a fully MCOLES certified law enforcement officer.”

Craig got licensed as a certified officer in Michigan in 1977, when he first joined the Detroit Police Department. For those who are in “good standing” as licensed officers in another state, obtaining MCOLES certification requires passing a written test, firearms test, physical and psychological test, as well as filing documentation.

Craig faced similar controversy over state certification when he served as police chief of the Cincinnati Police Department starting in 2011.

Although Craig signed a form that read “I must pass OPOTC state certification examination,” in his first month on the job, he later filed for a waiver for an exemption, which the Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission denied him in 2012.

In an eight-page decision, the Commission said it did not have the authority to grant the waiver, adding that Ohio law requires all officers to take a 200-question test and undergo more than 500 hours of training. Craig fought the decision in court, claiming that the test was overly time-consuming and presented unnecessary obstacles for candidates from out of state to fill leadership positions.

“Some people have asked, ‘What type of leadership example are you setting?'” Craig said at the time. “I’m setting a good one, because I believe in principle, and when wronged, you should fight.”

His appeal in the case was dismissed by an Ohio county court in May 2013. Craig assumed command of the Detroit Police Department about a month later.

Beenish Ahmed is Michigan Public's Criminal Justice reporter. Since 2016, she has been a reporter for WNYC Public Radio in New York and also a freelance journalist. Her stories have appeared on NPR, as well as in The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Atlantic, VICE and The Daily Beast.
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