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Detroit Police Department should keep cleaning house

The Detroit News

The Detroit Police Department, which has had its fair share of corruption, appears to finally be cleaning house and reforming its culture. Detroit residents should be encouraged by Chief James Craig's leadership with the recent suspension of four police officers, who are now under two separate investigations for alleged wrongdoing involving handling of narcotics.

Craig has been vocal about his desire to remove corruption from the city's force. That's essential, given the task the department faces. Even though crime decreased in 2013, Detroit is still America's murder capital, with the highest murder and violent crime rates among cities with more than 100,000 people.

The police chief previously disbanded the Narcotics Section in May after the department discovered confiscated drugs weren't logged as evidence, and that officers falsified evidence tags for items, mostly expensive electronics, seized during drug raids. Craig also revamped the entire Organized Crime Section, which was responsible for the Narcotics Section. The Narcotics Section has now been replaced by the Major Violators Section, which handles large-scale drug raids. Smaller drug suspicions are handled by precincts.

Craig initiated a policy that limits the amount of time officers can spend in a special section, which should help motivate officers and prevent the kind of corruption that's gone on for too long.

The actions being taken against these four officers show Craig is serious about continuing to improve the integrity of Detroit's Police Department. It can no longer be a club for those who work on favors and under-the-table dealings.

"We're in dire need of a functional narcotics division to address the drug problem in Detroit," said Willie Bell, chairman of the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners. "And after coming out from under the consent decrees, this is no time for corruption to set in. Both the chief and the board want to get to the bottom of what has transpired with all these suspended officers, and take whatever action is necessary."

Not only did he order an internal investigation, but Craig is working with the FBI on the investigation of the four officers. If charged with wrongdoing, they could be federally indicted.

In addition to weeding out corruption, Craig's changes in the department will streamline operations and make it more efficient. Though Detroit has a sizeable drug problem, many street-level drug investigations can be better handled by local precincts, as they are now.

These moves push Detroit's safety in the right direction, but there's still room for improvement. The corruption in the Police Department should continue to decrease as long as the Craig sticks to reforms like those already enacted. Weeding out bad cops should remain a priority until the job is finished.