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Detroit — Show up on time. Work hard. Take risks.

This was Detroit Police Chief James Craig’s message Tuesday to 52 middle school students gathered at the Frederick Douglass Academy for Young Men on the city’s west side.

Craig’s remarks came at the graduation ceremony for Citi Camp, an after-school program that offers police mentorship and guidance for middle schoolers in the city who may be headed down the wrong path.

Citi stands for Children In Trauma Intervention, and the program, which Craig first ran as a boot camp in Los Angeles, is in its third year in Detroit. Students, who are chosen by their principals, meet with police mentors three times a week to build life skills and discuss issues facing youth in the city.

“Be a risk taker,” Craig said. “If you don’t take risks, you won’t achieve excellence.”

Sometimes, those risks are in the actions one doesn’t take.

As a rookie officer just 19 years old, Craig said his training officer once instructed him to kick someone he was arresting in the head.

Craig refused, knowing he would be bad-mouthed by the veteran, called a coward or worse behind his back. It didn’t matter. Kicking violated his understanding of what police work was, so he didn’t do it.

Three-plus decades later, and after stints in Los Angeles, Portland, Maine, and Cincinnati, Craig returned to the Detroit Police Department in 2013 — as police chief.

His advice for the kids in Citi Camp?

“Disregard the haters.”

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