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Detroit's assistant police chief tapped as state's civil rights director

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Detroit's assistant police chief will become the new director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights after the state's civil rights commission voted 5-3 Monday for his selection. 

The Michigan Civil Rights Commission voted to appoint James White to the position after a nearly year-long search for a leader. 

The selection came after a deadlocked vote in June over Harvey Hollins, a former urban affairs adviser under Republican ex-Gov. Rick Snyder, prompted the commission to start the selection process over again. 

Detroit's Assistant Police Chief James White will serve as the new director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights

The former civil rights director, Agustin Arbulu, was removed from his position in August 2019 after he was alleged to have made remarks objectifying women

Nearly four months into the process of finding Arbulu's replacement, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer appointed two new members to the commission: Zenna Faraj Elhasan and Portia Roberson. 

They joined commissioners Stacie Clayton, Laura Reyes Kopack, Jeffrey Sakwa, Ira Combs, Regina Gasco-Bentley and Denise Grim.

White was selected from a group of seven candidates that included Michigan Legislative Black Caucus executive director John E. Johnson Jr., Arab American Civil Rights League Chairman Nasser Beydoun and Rhonda Powell, state operations director for We The People MI.

Clayton, Grim, Sakwa, Kopack and Combs supported White's hire.

Based on employee feedback, the commission was looking for someone who had a "heart for civil rights," was free of controversy, was under no political pressure and could hit the ground running, said Clayton, who serves as chairwoman

Additionally, Clayton said she looked for "someone who was prepared when they came in for their interview, they demonstrated a knowledge of the department, the strengths and weaknesses, it was clear they had done their research, and also exhibited they had management experience.”

eleblanc@detroitnews.com