Detroit — State Sen. Coleman A. Young is criticizing the city’s top cop over his “political” position with Detroit, claiming James Craig is putting the Duggan administration’s image above the safety of residents.
The Detroit mayoral challenger is arguing that Detroit Police Chief James Craig’s designation as the city’s deputy mayor under Mayor Mike Duggan conflicts with his duty to serve and protect the public. It’s an assertion that Craig counters is “absolutely false.”
Young and his campaign slammed Craig over his disagreement with Federal Bureau of Investigation crime statistics released last week that show the city’s violent crime rate was up more than 15 percent last year. The police department refuted the findings with its own figures that show a 5 percent dip in violent crime from 2015 to 2016 when corrected for errors inputted by officers.
But even with the lower figures, Detroit still ranked as the nation’s most violent big city.
Young argues the chief’s objections were politically-motivated and “completely tone deaf.”
“For him to sit up there and talk about numbers, a mathematical equation rather than understand the pain, suffering and quite frankly the oppression people are going through right now ... It’s absurd and outrageous,” Young told The News.
“He is sounding more like defending the administration than about defending the safety of the community. His job isn’t about making the administration look good with numbers. He’s not a statistician.”
Craig said there’s no legitimacy for Young’s criticism based on the work that his department has done.
“We put a very high premium on our relationships with the community. I understand pain and suffering. Not just because of my time in Detroit but in every city I’ve worked,” he said.
The role of deputy mayor, he added, doesn’t interfere with running the Police Department and only would kick in for a crisis situation. Former Deputy Mayor Ike McKinnon, a former Detroit police chief, retired in July 2016.
Young’s comments come as his campaign has touted an upcoming announcement to detail Young’s concerns about the Police Department and unveil his plans for tackling crime.
The senator declined to delve further into his plan in advance of a formal announcement, but said it will call for additional police mini stations and more officers out walking the beat.
Craig argued Young doesn’t understand the department’s staffing levels. Increasing mini stations and foot beats, the chief said, is an “outdated approach” that couldn’t be done without “sacrificing this much smaller agency.”
Craig said Young has not reached out to him to talk about crime issues. The chief added that the senator also has been “noticeably absent” from Craig’s call to have elected leadership stand together with the department in denouncing violence against police officers.
“He is welcome, as he has been for four and a half years, to sit down with me and talk about policing strategy,” Craig said. “That door is open, but he hasn’t accessed it.”
Young’s campaign manager Adolph Mongo said Young is out in the community and “understands what’s going on.”
“For them (Detroit police) to say ‘Oh, crime is down,” that is BS,” Mongo said. “It is not down, and they know it is not down.”
Last week Detroit police officials disputed the FBI statistics, saying they have a more accurate count that shows 863 fewer violent crimes were committed last year. Detroit police figures show 12,842 violent crimes reported in 2016, as opposed to the 13,705 reported by the FBI.
The FBI says on its website: “Data users should not rank locales because there are many factors that cause the nature and type of crime to vary from place to place.”
Assistant Chief Arnold Williams told Detroit’s police commission last week that officials tried to tell the FBI and state police last year their CRISNET reporting system was under-reporting crimes.
But because data input into the system immediately goes to the state police, which forwards the figures to the FBI, Williams said Detroit officials were told there wasn't anything that could be done to amend the statistics.
Craig has said if the data show Detroit is the highest in the country for violent crime, then “that’s what it shows.” But the discrepancy between the FBI figures and the city’s, which he contends are accurate, is a big deal.
After McKinnon retired last summer, Duggan filed paperwork with the city clerk to designate Craig as the executive who would perform mayoral duties in the event of Duggan’s absence.
The move did not change Craig’s existing job, or his pay, the administration has said.
Alexis Wiley, Duggan’s chief of staff, said Young has a “vendetta” against Craig and has said if he’s elected mayor, he would fire the chief.
When asked if he would replace Craig, Young simply said, “Everybody is going to be under review.”
Staff Writer George Hunter contributed