DETROIT, Mich. (WXYZ) — It's a new year but for the men and women who put on the blue uniform, the challenges remain.
Crime rising, civil unrest and a COVID war that continues to brew despite vaccines at the ready.
“2020 is probably the most challenging time in my professional career we're talking 43 plus years,” said Chief James Craig from the Detroit Police Department.
The insurrection at the nation's Capitol building and the civil unrest from the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor continue to shine the light on a nation divided and peace disrupted. Stir in the pandemic and it is an ongoing war like no other.
In the spring of 2020, The Detroit Police Department under siege by protesters had the 3rd highest number of Covid cases in the United States.
“When you think about COVID and what this department went through at one point we had as many as 650 members of our organization quarantined that was during a time when I was battling COVID,” said Chief Craig.
Two from DPD died from COVID and Chief James Craig fought his way through it, out of the hospital and working out daily.
The chief says he still has periodic problems like chest pains.
“So, it's a real concern but all in all I still push through,” said Chief Craig.
His childhood friend and mentor Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon not so fortunate.
“I would have never imagined that he would have passed especially given his background he was a former swat officer and that really rocked our department,” said Chief Craig.
Sheriff Napoleon's brother, Highland Park Police Chief Hilton Napoleon, beat the disease and so did Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham.
“Even when I'm dealing with a very tragic situation even if it includes a very tragic death of a police officer people look to me for strength, stability. I'm human it doesn't mean I don't feel the pain,” said Chief Craig. DPD Commander Kyra Hope Joy a 35-year veteran. hit with COVID too.
“I was really in a shock mode,” said Detroit Police Commander Kyra Hope Joy. “It felt like a Mack truck hitting your muscles.”
Commander Joy said it attacked her digestinal track.
“Very severe! People ask how it feels a fish being cut open with a dagger cutting through your intestines,” added Commander Joy.
Commander Joy knows about battling pain. It took her three years to recover from being shot by a gang member which inspired her to join the force and then another tragedy.
“My house burned down when I was a lieutenant and my mother was in it,” said Commander Joy.
Commander Joy uses her life lessons however tragic to help others during these difficult times now.
“We don't have to forget it, but we have to embrace it and continue to move on,” said Commander Joy.
This pandemic has had such an impact an emotional impact on people and they are not addressing disputes very well in our nation and locally. A young man in a custody battle killing his estranged girlfriend and then coming to the police station with a high-powered rifle opening fire just one recent example.
“When you think about that level of aggression, that's what we're dealing with today,” said Chief Craig.
While Detroit is listed by the FBI as one of the most dangerous cities the Chief says nothing deters his officers from their oath to protect and serve.
“Even when they were quarantined, they wanted to get back out in the field so they could support their partners that's the kind of police department this is,” said Chief Craig.
Despite COVID and an uptick in violence the men and women in blue continue to put their lives on the line, they credit their dedication to community support and leadership.
They hope 2021 will bring an end to the pandemic and chaos.