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New Detroit Police Chief: 'I'm going to take care of the cops'

Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio

“We will get this done,” James Craig, Detroit’s new police chief, told officers at the 10th precinct during roll call Monday.

Craig, during his first day on the job, promised officers that he would start “treating police like adults.” And he vowed to make Detroit “one of the safest major cities in America.”

“You can’t have a safe city if you don’t take care of the cops,” Craig said.  “And I’m going to take care of the cops.”

Craig insisted his leadership style is different from what Detroit cops are used to. He styled himself as someone who champions for the rank-and-file, saying he’ll hold the command staff accountable. And he promised tackle issues important to officers right away, like their current 12-hour shifts and poor equipment.

Craig says boosting morale is also crucial. And he says you do that by tackling “the small things first,” and respecting the officers.

After a brief listening session with officers at the 10th, Craig says they recognize Detroit is in a fiscal emergency.

“I didn’t hear a lot of talk about money,” Craig said. “What I did hear was…we want to be able to do our jobs, we want to be able to do it safely, we want to do it better. We want to serve this community.”

Craig is a Detroit native, and the 10th was the precinct he served as an officer until 1981. After being laid off, he migrated to Los Angeles and spent 28 years with the LAPD.

Craig has since served brief stints as chief in Portland, Maine, and Cincinnati. He says he was lured back to Detroit by the chance to serve his hometown in a time of crisis. He comes with a reputation of building community support to fight crime, and strong support from rank-and-file police.

However, there is some controversy about his salary. Craig is slated to make $225,000 a year, making him the highest-paid official in the city aside from emergency manager Kevyn Orr.

Craig defended that salary on Monday, noting that “Detroit is one of the most violent cities in America” and adding:  “Nobody questions the salaries of CEOs of some of the major corporations in America. We’re talking about making this city safer.”

The matter of Craig’s salary is set to come before the Detroit City Council Tuesday.

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.
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