Left-wing protesters want Detroit Police Chief James Craig to join the ranks of law-enforcement leaders leaving the job in droves, but the no-nonsense chief says he’s not going anywhere.
“I am not going to allow criminals to attack our police officers, attack property, and I absolutely am not going to allow them to take over our city streets,” Chief Craig said Saturday on Fox Business. “We speak a very different language. They know it. And they want me to leave. The best way to respond to that is: I’m staying.”
About 40 progressive groups, including Detroit Will Breathe and the Metro Detroit Democratic Socialists of America, signed a letter earlier this month calling for the resignation of Chief Craig amid criticism of his officers for using tear gas, rubber bullets, batons and other crowd-control methods.
At least 20 U.S. police chiefs, including high-profile Black police chiefs in Seattle, Dallas and Rochester, New York, have stepped down since mass unrest broke out after the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.
Chief Craig, who is Black, said that the race of the department head doesn’t matter to protesters, who “want what they want, and if you’re opposing their agenda… then you’ve got to go.”
He credited his department’s response with keeping rioting to a minimum in Detroit.
“Here’s the fact: We’re now in excess of 100 days of managing protests. Of that, it’s been six instances where we’ve had to use force, and it’s always been in response to violence perpetrated by these criminals,” said Chief Craig.
He cited an Aug 3 protest at which 44 demonstrators were arrested, saying they resisted arrest despite receiving several warnings over the course of about an hour from officers.
“They resisted arrest. They resisted a lawful arrest and so we used that force that was necessary,” said Chief Craig, who has headed the department since 2013. “They would prefer that they just take over and do what they want to do; they do not represent Detroit, and that’s what makes this city so different.”
Among Chief Craig’s critics is Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Michigan Democrat, who shared the call for the chief’s resignation and tweeted, “Stop beating and assaulting protesters DPD [Detroit Police Department]!”
Stop beating and assaulting protesters DPD! https://t.co/4ITgJp0rLk— Rashida Tlaib (@RashidaTlaib) September 3, 2020
Chief Craig called her response “comical,” saying she has never tried to engage him in a conversation and that “she also has another agenda.”
In a Sept. 8 letter, Ms. Tlaib and three state and local lawmakers called for an investigation into the department’s “use of excessive physical force against protesters, legal observers and journalists,” such as a May 29 incident in which “Police cars drive fast toward protesters, then stop suddenly, causing fear.”
Unlike some of the police chiefs who have retired or resigned in recent months, Chief Craig has support at city hall. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said last week that “Chief Craig has the kind of job approval ratings politicians only wish for.”
Detroit police chief on lawmakers’ call for investigation into city’s protest response https://t.co/KmYODlLDrL— James E. Craig (@ChiefJECraigDPD) September 9, 2020
“I think he is doing an outstanding job and we haven’t seen any looting or fires every other major city has seen,” Mr. Duggan told WDIV-TV last week.
In her letter, Ms. Tlaib also cited Chief Craig’s “dismissive attitude of the movement for racial justice,” while he said that his department is dedicated to protecting free speech.
Ms. Tlaib “would have me say, these are peaceful protesters, just support their right to free speech,” said Chief Craig. “We do support the right to free speech, which is evident by the number of days that these protests have been violence-free, but we’re not going to let you terrorize our community, period.”
• Valerie Richardson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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