Craig defends in-house probe of police narcotics unit

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

As more critics express concerns about the Detroit Police Department's in-house probe of alleged corruption in the narcotics unit, Chief James Craig said Tuesday he has the best team in position to dig into the matter. 

"Frankly, we are best poised to do this investigation," he said during a news conference at police headquarters. "We have a collaborative team, a former U.S. Attorney, and I have a reputation of being transparent. It's no secret that when I was appointed as chief here now six and a half years ago, one of things that was most important to me was (to) hold supervision and management accountable."

Detroit Police Chief James Craig

Craig also said that he is working hard to do what the community is demanding, and it was his department that pressed for this investigation.

"We are rooting out corruption," the chief said, adding that he wants to meet with the groups that are criticizing the investigation. "I want to remind everyone that we did not run from this. We initiated it, we opened the door and were very transparent about our findings."

Craig was responding to critics who have called for outside investigators to handle the probe of the department's narcotics unit, which began after the August federal indictment of Michael Mosley, a longtime Detroit narcotics officer. Mosley is accused of taking a $15,000 bribe from a drug dealer in exchange for not seeking criminal charges after seizing two kilograms of heroin, one kilogram of cocaine and six firearms.

Craig said police officials thought it was critical to take a deeper look at the unit. He ordered Detroit internal affairs officers to raid the section and investigators seized and analyzed 50 computers and dozens of records.

Subsequently investigators uncovered alleged corruption that included drug officers planting evidence on suspects, lying to prosecutors in search warrant affidavits, robbing dope dealers and embezzling funds.

The chief said 17 investigators are involved in the probe, including officials from the Detroit Police Department, the FBI and the Michigan State Police. He added that officials are working closely with the U.S. Attorney's Office and having regular conversations with the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office.

In December, Willie Bell, a member of the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners, called for outside investigators to take over.

A joint coalition of seven grassroots organizations formed Jan. 30 and called for outside investigators to ensure accountability. The coalition includes Michigan Liberation, Color Of Change, Advancement Project National Office, The Mass Liberation Project, BYP100 Detroit, We the People-MI and Detroit Action.

"We are calling for a full, independent investigation into the Detroit Police Department’s narcotics unit. We are also demanding the public release of records from all felony drug cases, including those filed by this narcotics unit, so that there is full transparency around the way these cases were handled,” Rai LaNier, Wayne County director of Michigan Liberation, said in a press release.

The probe, Craig said, is focused, and will include a criminal investigation, but also a look at administrative processes, and any roles of supervisors and managers. While there may be charges that result from the investigation, Craig said they may uncover behavior that doesn't may not rise to the level of criminal wrongdoing, and it's possible department officials could be dismissed.

"If there is a pattern of conduct involving alleged misconduct, the single most important question is how and why did it happen," Craig said. "As we go about the investigation work, (there will be) a very key look at supervision and management."

Investigators have interviewed more than 40 sources and complainants. It also opened a hotline, (313) 596-3190, which has garnered 64 tips, including 25 that police officials believe are credible.

When the probe was launched, Craig projected it would take at least a year. But seven months into the investigation, he said he expects it to take much longer, possibly 18 months to two years.

"We are still investigating cases from 2019, 2018 and we've gone into part of 2017," Craig said. "Again, as a reminder ... this probe is going to go back 10 years."

Craig said the investigation is looking at criminal investigations, administrative issues and possible wrongful convictions.

"Our focus is clear," he said. "This department is relentlessly pursing all facts. We are transparent about this."