Does James Craig Have A Real Shot At Beating Whitmer?

[Left: WXYZ/Right: Carlos Osorio-Pool/Getty Images]

Brianna Lyman News and Commentary Writer
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One of Detroit’s longest serving police chiefs is reportedly considering a run to unseat Democratic Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

James Craig announced his plan to retire on June 1 after eight years on the job, according to the Detroit Free Press.

“I’m leaving in a good place, I love this city and I love this state,” Craig reportedly said.

Craig did not rule out a bid for governor, noting he is “deeply passionate” about public service.

“I have not made that decision. I am not ruling it out. There’s an appropriate time and I will get past this and then I will come out with a decision,” he said, according to Click On Detroit. “I am deeply passionate for public service.”

Craig began his career with the Detroit Police Department before joining the LAPD for 28 years, according to WXYZ. Prior to returning to Detroit, he worked as the police chief in Cincinnati, according to the report.

Detroit had the highest violent crime rate among big cities in 2019 while Craig served, according to The Detroit News.

In 2019, there were 13,040 violent crimes reported to police which include murder, rape, assault and robbery. While overall the city saw a three-percent decrease in crime, it still led the nation, according to the report. The crime rate for every 100,000 people was 1,965 violent crimes, according to the report. But Craig blamed the crime rate to the increase in illegal guns on the street and people not handling disputes properly, according to The Detroit News.

“A lot of our violence is argument-based,” Craig reportedly said. “We’ve seen significant increases in that. It was up last year, but it’s gotten worse this year, with a lot of stress related to COVID.”

Craig also blamed illegal guns, according to The Detroit News.

“I’m not talking about people who purchase guns legally and have a legal license to carry. Those aren’t the people causing the problems. It’s illegal guns.”

Craig also blamed a backlog in the court system and issues with prosecution, according to the Detroit Free Press.

“I’m all for some kind of reform when it comes to bail, but let’s use some common sense of judgment,” he reportedly said. “Some people are sociopaths, some people are violent.”

Craig also launched Project Green Light, which has come under criticism by some. Project Green Light was created in 2016 and is a public-private partnership meant to curb crime. The police department partners with gas stations that use “real-time camera connections with police headquarters as part of a ground-breaking crime-fighting partnership between local businesses, the City of Detroit and community groups.”

Facial recognition is also used, with the system monitored by the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and private partners.

The city of Detroit says the project has been successful, with incidents of violent crime reduced by 23% at all participating sites and 48% at the original eight gas stations. (RELATED: Small Business Owner Launches Bid Against Whitmer, Says She’s Responsible For ‘People Losing Their Livelihoods’)

“I think the best evidence is, first of all, crime reduction,” Craig said, according to the Detroit Free Press. “Take a look at our stats.”

Some, however, claim it “disproportionately singles out communities of color,” according to Public Seminar. Others have also criticized it, equating it with a mass surveillance campaign.

The program has resulted in two wrongful arrests, however. In one instance, Robert Williams was wrongly identified as a suspect in a theft and was arrested on Jan. 9, 2020 in front of his family and held for 30 hours before being released on bond, the Detroit Free Press reported.

Williams sued, and Craig, the city of Detroit and Detroit police Detective Donald Bussa were named as defendants in the suit, according to the report.

“Cities across the country have banned police from using facial recognition technology for a reason,” Jeremy Shur, a student attorney with the University of Michigan Law School’s Civil Rights Litigation Initiative, which is representing Williams, said according to the report. “The technology is racial biased, flawed and easily leads to false arrests of innocent people, just like our client.”

But Craig has taken other approaches which could appeal to some Republican voters. Craig once expressed support for arming teachers, according to Metro Times.

“I think it makes sense,” Craig reportedly said. “These mass shooting incidents, they happen between four and six minutes. Police are notified, the fastest police will get there could be as soon as a few minutes to eight minutes, and so by that time … the carnage has happened, so this is about the business of mitigating a threat.”

Craig said teachers would have to go through a “very thorough vetting process” and that not all teachers would be armed.

Craig has also supported having more legal guns on the street to deter crime, which could appeal to supporters of the Second Amendment.

“I say that because of my experience now in my fourth city, seeing good Americans, good Detroiters that have concealed carry weapons and what effect that has had on deterring violent crime,” Craig said, according to MLive.

Craig became Portland’s first African-American police chief in 2009, according to the Press Herald. While acting as Portland’s police chief, Craig created a text messaging system for bars to use in order to warn police and other bar owners about certain patrons, according to the Press Herald.

He also reportedly ordered the police department to stop using Remington 700 sniper rifles because of their unproductive firing.

“I don’t want to run the risk of having an accidental discharge like this where it puts an officer’s or community member’s life in danger,” Craig told the Press Herald.

Craig was also praised by city officials for his commitment to community policing, according to the report.

Whitmer is likely to face a competitive election cycle, with a recent poll showing her approval rating for her handling of the coronavirus pandemic plummeted 17% over eight months.