Craig announces retirement as Detroit police chief, doesn't rule out run for office

Detroit — Police Chief James Craig announced his retirement Monday after nearly eight years as Detroit's top cop, saying he will end his 44-year law enforcement career June 1.

"I am voluntarily leaving," he said during a news conference at Detroit Police headquarters. "We saw what happened to many chiefs across this country. Some were forced out, some retired because they didn't feel supported and some were fired. I'm leaving in a good place."

Sources told The Detroit News that Craig also plans to run for the Michigan governor's seat as a Republican. Craig did not deny the reports, telling The News Friday: "I'm a lifelong public servant. I want to continue to serve."

At Monday's news conference, Craig said he is a Republican and did not rule out a possible run for office. He declined, however, to discuss details, saying, "Today is not a day for politics."

Mayor Mike Duggan said Craig brought stability to the department, which had frequent turnover at the top before he took over in 2013.

The city, before Craig, had five chiefs in five years, the mayor noted.

"Morale was at an all-time low," he said. "Chief Craig brought professionalism to the police department."

Detroit Police Chief James Craig, right, announced Monday that he is retiring June 1. Mayor Mike Duggan, left, will select his successor from a list of candidates provided by the city Board of Police Commissioners.

Craig said he met Monday morning with his executive team.

"It was emotional, but I know we’re a much better department today, but it’s been a lot of work," he said. "Until my final day, my focus will be to continue to lead this department and work closely with the mayor until he chooses the next chief."

Willie Bell, chairman of the Police Board of Commissioners, said he expects the board this week to vote on whether to hire a firm to launch a national search for Craig's replacement, although he added he would prefer to hire from within the department.

Under a 2012 City Charter revision, the police board, "shall conduct a professional search with a reputable and qualified executive search firm or other equally qualified entity to identify candidates for Chief of Police."

After the search, the charter mandates that the mayor appoint one of the board's candidates, who will be subject to approval by the City Council. If the Council does not disapprove of the appointment within 30 days, "it is deemed confirmed," the charter says.

Craig, 64, was appointed chief in July 2013 by Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr. Craig's 7 years, 10 months as chief make him the second-longest serving top cop in Detroit's history behind William Hart, who served 14 years, 10 months.

Craig took over a department that had been under a federal consent decree since 2003. It also had been rocked by scandals, including the firings of the two previous chiefs over allegations of affairs with the same female officer.

The federal decree was lifted in August 2014. 

Craig was nicknamed “Hollywood” because of his frequent media appearances, a moniker he embraced, insisting it was his job to be the face of the department.

Shortly after he took over the police department, Craig launched a series of raids dubbed “Operation Restore Order.” During the first raid, 150 officers flooded the Colony Arms Apartments on Jefferson and led occupants away in handcuffs as other residents leaned out their windows and cheered.

Some people criticized the raids, saying they were for show and didn't result in the convictions of violent criminals.

Other initiatives under Craig include establishing an LGBTQ outreach program and a Peer Support Group for officers dealing with stress.

When asked what he considered his biggest accomplishment, Craig said: "Coming home to Detroit as the chief."

Craig generally received high marks from longtime Detroit civil rights activists. But groups that gained prominence last year to protest the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, including Detroit Will Breathe, have repeatedly called for Craig to be fired, alleging that Detroit officers used unjustified force during demonstrations.

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