Detroit police chief James Craig (Charles V. Tines / The Detroit News)
Detroit — Detroit Police officials on Thursday released a 108-page action plan outlining how they intend to attack the city’s crime problem, with objectives that include responding to emergencies faster, closing more homicide cases and streamlining the department.
Among the goals outlined in the wide-ranging document: Reducing overall crime by 10 percent; reducing response time to Priority One, or life-threatening, emergency calls, to five minutes; redeploying 275 officers to patrol and investigative roles and assigning their current jobs to civilians; adding 150 police officers by year’s end; increasing the homicide clearance rate to 70 percent; and achieving 100 percent compliance with federal consent decrees by the second quarter.
Police Chief James Craig released the document in order to keep citizens informed about how he plans to fight crime in the city, Detroit Police Sgt. Michael Woody said.
“When the chief first came in, he promised citizens a specific plan,” Woody said. “Now that he’s got his executive team in place, and has made some changes in his first six months, he now has a solid plan of what he needs to do to move the city forward.”
Craig said in a written statement: “We recognize there is much work to do and look forward to working with you to ensure that we meet and exceed not only our goals, but your expectations as well.”
Craig discussed some aspects of the plan last week, including his goals of increasing the current homicide closure rate of about 50 percent, and decreasing the time it takes officers to respond to emergencies, which is currently an average of 5 minutes. Average response time was 58 minutes prior to Craig’s arrival in July, but he changed the way response times are counted by starting the clock when a dispatcher gives a 911 call to an officer, rather than when the call is first placed.
Craig also said he’ll deploy detectives to each of the 12 precincts by April 1, and ensure police officers have “adequate training and equipment to perform at optimal levels and continue to focus on improving the overall working environment of our officers.”
Improved community relations “with an emphasis on reducing fear and perception of crime,” and opening standalone facilities for the 5th, 7th and 9th precincts by the end of the year are other stated goals.
East side resident Jerome Morgan, 62, said he’s impressed with Craig’s changes so far.
“He seems to be doing the best he can do with the limited force he has to work with,” Morgan said. “There are a lot of things in the department that need fixing. A train was going the wrong way for so long, and it’s hard to come in and get that corrected in such a short time, but he seems to be doing as good as you could ask.”
Ron Scott, director of the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, said the police department needs a cultural change.
“I don’t have a problem with the goals they’re initiating; these are goals many citizens have wanted for some time. However, I think the chief needs to respond to the oversight of the police commission, and adhere to those goals as opposed to just working for Kevyn Orr; he works for the citizens,” Scott said, referring to Orr’s Executive Order 11, which gave the chief sweeping powers and enabled him to promote executives and restructure the police department, which under the City Charter were responsibilities under the purview of the citizen Board of Police Commissioners.
“I think the department internally needs to be adjusted to get rid of the attitude that created the consent decree,” Scott said, a reference to the federal decrees that were put in place in 2003 after the police department faced lawsuits alleging misbehavior ranging from brutality to poor conditions of confinement. “Use of force is still a problem.”
The police department has become 93 percent compliant with the federal mandates; the plan released Thursday sets a goal of achieving 100 percent compliance by the second quarter of 2014.
The Plan of Action also calls for holding officers and police officials more accountable, and says the chief’s job includes “accepting the responsibility for the conduct of members of this department, and taking decisive action that corrects any matters that impinge upon the reputation and effectiveness of the department.”
The plan further states: “Over the years and as a consequence of a variety of administrative choices, the DPD has become a top-heavy organization, especially in the Commander rank. As recently as the beginning of 2012, the Department had 17 authorized Commander positions compared with 20 authorized positions in the next lowest rank. Six of the Commanders headed patrol districts, overseeing just two precincts each.
“The arrangement resulted in blurry lines of command and accountability in the management of precincts. Under this system, the DPD seemed to have difficulty fixing accountability, which is vitally important to running a robust patrol operation in a large city.”
Since Craig assumed command in July, he’s reduced the number of top commanders from 26 to 15; and reduced commander positions from 18 to 9.
The plan calls for adding classifications within the rank of lieutenant and sergeant: 1st lieutenant and master sergeant.
The size of the chief’s staff also was recently reduced, according to the document released Thursday. “The Office of the Chief at its peak was staffed by one inspector, one Lieutenant, three Sergeants, nine police officers, and two civilian clerks,” it said. “The office was overstaffed and had assigned members to non-police functions and auxiliary duties, including interdepartmental mail processing and delivery, vehicle maintenance and timekeeping.
“The staffing level of the Office of the Chief has been reduced to one Commander, one sergeant, two civilian clerks and two police officers, who serve as the Chief’s security detail,” the plan said. “The revised staffing level has increased the overall efficiency of the office by reducing redundant clerical duties and improving office work flow.”
Consulting firms The Bratton Group and Conway MacKenzie assisted with putting together the plan of action.