Detroit assistant police chief scotches Ann Arbor move

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Detroit — Assistant Police Chief James White was set to take the job as Ann Arbor’s top cop but decided against it after the mayor asked him to stay.

White, who has been a Detroit officer for 19 years, had accepted the offer after the Ann Arbor City Council voted 11-0 to hire him. He was set to start Jan. 11.

He changed his mind and sent an email to Ann Arbor officials Sunday explaining he was staying in Detroit.

“Since it was announced that I was selected by Ann Arbor to lead the police department, I have been approached by many leaders of the city of Detroit expressing their desire to have me remain in my current position,” White wrote.

Ann Arbor city officials did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Mayor Mike Duggan said he wanted White to stay to continue several projects he’s involved with.

“Chief (James) Craig and I sat down with him after he got the offer and told him if his dream was to become police chief in Ann Arbor, then by all means, pursue it,” Duggan said. “But he’s essential to Detroit, and we let him know he’s very much wanted here.”

White told The Detroit News on Monday he still has work to do.

“Ann Arbor treated me well, and I really appreciate the opportunity they gave me, but after careful consideration, and discussing it with my family, we agreed that this just wasn’t the right time to leave Detroit,” he said. “There’s important work we’re doing here in the post-bankruptcy era, and I’m responsible for a lot of sensitive projects.”

Craig said he was “excited” White was staying on.

Assistant Police Chief James White

“He certainly has been an integral part of this administration,” Craig said. “He sees the city’s turnaround, and the continued ascension of the police department, and wants to be part of it.”

White spearheaded the department’s efforts to comply with the federal consent decrees, which ended in August 2014 after 11 years. The city entered into the decrees to avoid civil rights litigation charging excessive use of force and deplorable conditions of confinement.

When the decree ended, the police department and the U.S. Department of Justice agreed to an 18-month transition agreement, which is set to end in March.

“We’ve still got to close out the consent judgment, and then we have to continue on the track of sustainability,” White said. “That’s one of the most important jobs ahead. Also, we really need to get our officers the equipment they need to do their jobs.”

White also is working to get police officers equipped with body cameras. In August, city and police officials announced a plan to issue the cameras, beginning in early 2016, with full deployment within three years. The announcement followed a 90-day test of three camera systems that involved 20 officers from the 11th Precinct.

White is also central to implementing a Real Time Crime Center, which would allow police to monitor camera feeds throughout the city.

“I’m making a difference in Detroit, and I want to continue making a difference,” he said.

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