DPD chief: Black outcry rare in shootings by black cops

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Detroit — Police Chief James Craig appeared on national television Sunday to discuss racial unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, and said there is rarely an outcry when black police officers shoot black suspects.

Craig was on CNN's "State of the Union" in a segment called "Black and Blue: Impact of Ferguson." He appeared with former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik and others to discuss protests and rioting over last week's grand jury decision not to charge Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson with a crime for fatally shooting robbery suspect Michael Brown, 18, in August after a struggle.

"In my tenure ... rarely do you hear outcry if it's a black officer that's involved in a shooting and the suspect is black," Craig told show host Candy Crowley. "It's always the reverse."

Ron Scott, director of the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, called Craig's remarks "blatantly untrue."

"It's not a question of race; it's a question of power. The fact that they're black officers does not mitigate anything. The chief is wrong: Black people speak up when there are shootings by black officers," said Scott, who added his group formed over concerns that a black officer, Eugene Brown, shot nine people in nine years.

Craig told The News on Sunday: "I made the statement (on CNN) because it's true from a national perspective. In Detroit, we've had police-involved shootings by both black and white officers and there's been no outcry. That's because we have a strong relationship with our citizens. ... Eugene Brown predates me, and I can't speak to that.

"I have a perspective Ron Scott doesn't have because I've been around the country and I've seen that there's very little outcry when a black officer shoots a black suspect.

"Where's the protest for (the more than 250) murders we've had this year?" Craig asked.

During the CNN segment, Craig also said that most white police officers do a good job serving African-Americans. He also discussed a photograph snapped during a protest last week in Portland, Oregon, showing Sgt. Bret Barnum, who is white, hugging a 12-year-old Devonte Hart, who is black. The photo went viral on the Internet.

"That picture represents the vast majority of police officers in America," Craig said. "When we talk about these anomalies, as I would like to refer to them as, this is not reflective of policing."

Craig pointed to a September incident in which white officers worked to save the life of a 7-year-old African-American girl. "Detroit police officers quickly placed her in the rear seat of that scout car and transported her to the hospital where she was treated," he said. "Had it not been for their decisive actions, that little girl might not live today.

"And these were white officers, if we just want to put race on it, but that reflects what our police officers are truly about," Craig said.

Crowley asked Craig what his first move would be if he knew a grand jury decision was coming.

"The first thing I'm going to do is what I have done in other places that I have had an opportunity to work, is, I'm going to meet out with those key leaders in our community," Craig answered. "... Talking to those key leaders, getting a pulse of the community. But it just doesn't start then. It really starts long before that time. And that's about building up trust."

Others on the show included Dallas Deputy Chief Malik Aziz, who chairs the National Black Police Association, and Thomas Manger, chief of the Montgomery County, Maryland, Police Department and vice president of the Police Executive Research Forum.