(WXYZ) — A former Detroit Police commander who left the force after crashing a department vehicle while driving under the influence is now returning to law enforcement as a police chief.
The City of Highland Park announced the new hire today. Highland park’s mayor says his choice for police chief is the best person for the job, despite a history of drinking and driving, and crash in a department vehicle while working for the city of Detroit. He also says he stands behind the decision.
“I did hear that there was a little turbulence there,” said Highland Park Mayor Hubert Yopp.
Mayor Yopp is talking about the final days of former Detroit Police commander Johnny Thomas’s lengthy career with Detroit Police that came to an end in early 2019.
In a video court appearance for a drunk driving charge, Thomas was charged with driving a department vehicle with a BAC of more than .17 and causing a three vehicle crash.
The veteran cop eventually retired and served only a year of probation. His former boss then Chief James Craig previously stating, "this is very disappointing.”
The Highland Park mayor insists Thomas was the strongest of three candidates, a former head of DPD internal affairs and the right man to move the department of eight full time officers forward.
“I need an administrator. This man is a chief, all kinds of training,” said Yopp. "As police officers, there’s certain standards. However, how many of us, including you, have not made a mistake in life?”
Mayor Yopp also showed us the new chief’s resume and had him call us to set up an interview, but so far he’s not been available. As for how some citizens respond, let’s just say not all are sold on Thomas.
"He shouldn’t be chief. You couldn’t find nobody else? Somebody that don’t drink and crash cars," said a resident.
Another citizen was confused about why the current chief, who’s spent nearly 3 decades with Highland Park would be replaced.
What’s certain is the department that once had more than 100 officers is now down to less than 10% of that, a troubling stat even the mayor admits must be dealt with, and he’s not ruling out a deal with an outside agency…
"We’re losing officers by way of more money and better benefits. I’m concerned. We don’t have plans but certainly if we continue to lose, I’ll have to sit down with Mr. Washington and see if I can’t do something with Wayne County Sheriff," said Yopp.
We’ve also reached out to the Wayne County Prosecutor for comment but so far they’ve declined. The mayor says the new chief starts Monday.