Detroit Police Chief James Craig talks violence against police officers

Posted at 10:53 PM, Dec 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-27 23:33:47-05

As we close out 2016 there's a lot the law enforcement community has to reflect on.

When it comes to crime in the city of Detroit, Detroit Police Chief James Craig does not mess around.

He agreed to do a one-on-one interview with Carolyn Clifford about what he thinks about the rise in deadly violence against the men and women in blue and what we as a community can do about it.

The videos being seen across America of police shooting unarmed citizens are downright frightening. Too many images, too many cases, too many protests to name them all.

Equally as disturbing are videos of our men and women in blue being gunned down for no apparent reason.

Within the last three months of the year, three Detroit officers were killed.

In October, Officer Myron Jarrett lost his life in a vehicular assassination. In September Sgt. Kenneth Steil was shot and killed. In December Wayne State University Officer Collin Rose was killed on campus.

Detroit Police Chief James Craig says, "tragic, but then we look across the country. There's almost a 70 percent increase in line of duty deaths where officers are being shot by guns suspects, a very different time, not one that I've witnessed in my law enforcement career."

It angers Chief Craig, whose own life was threatened by a man who spray painted "Kill James Craig" on the side of a building in Detroit.

Chief Craig says, "When you threaten to kill a police officer you threaten all of us."

The charges against the man who threatened Chief Craig's life were reduced and did not include charges for the threat.

Chief Craig says, "It sends the wrong message, I believe, to those who want to harm police officers, who want to threaten to kill police officers."

Chief Craig also believes had the officer being threatened not been working in Detroit the outcome in court likely would have been different.

Chief Craig says, "If this were Oakland or Macomb Counties, would it have been the same response? I will tell you it would not have been. I firmly believe that in my heart."

According to the National Law enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, 64 police officers have been shot and killed in the line of duty this year.

Chief Craig believes there is an underlying reason those numbers are rising.

Chief Craig says, "Certainly a lot of it comes out of the mouths of some members of Black Lives Matter and the impact that it's had in what I'd say the empowering effect on suspects who wish to harm police."

Many in the Black Lives Movement would be quick to disagree with Chief Craig, who 8 years ago lost his best friend - the first LAPD SWAT officer killed in the line of duty.

Chief Craig says, "Black men are more likely, in any city in America, to be killed by a black man. That's factual. So, if you want to talk about Black Lives Matter, let's talk about the other issues surrounding it."

Across the nation 708 people have died at the hands of police, according to FBI statistics.

Chief Craig says in Detroit it's been just under two years since DPD has had an officer related shooting. However, he says social media can paint a much different picture.

Chief Craig says, "When I'm talking to young people and they talk about why did that police officer kill that black man? Where did in happen?"

Chief Craig says there's also a rush to judgement today, especially if a shooting incident involves a white police officer and the person shot is black.

Chief Craig says, "The fact that the police officer was white and the suspect was black, it's a bad shooting something is flawed in that."

Chief Craig says he realizes some of those attacking police have mental illness, but the anti-police rhetoric must stop or things could get worse.

When asked about solutions, Chief Craig was quick to point out he's fortunate.

He says, since he's taken over DPD, the relationship with the community has improved greatly and he has a good relationship with the media.

Chief Craig says, "I've had to take on the media because, if the narrative is wrong, I don't care who you are, I'm going to call you on it."

And he's not afraid to point the finger of blame in his direction

Chief Craig says, "We are going to make mistakes and when we do, we're going to own them. We're going to do the investigating and it doesn't mean its reflective of an entire organization."

Chief Craig says one of the biggest solutions to ending violent crime is still community policing, where police know residents and residents know police.

Here's hoping 2017 is a safe one.