Detroit police chief answers claims of staffing shortages, officer exodus

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Detroiters don't want to hear their men and women in blue are leaving the city for better pay and benefits.

"The number of officers leaving the city of Detroit is staggering," said Mark Diaz, president of the Detroit Police Officers Association,

Diaz says 117 officers have left the department this year so far and more than 800 in the last five years.

Detroit Police Chief James Craig sat down with FOX 2 to set the record straight.

"Our attrition rate has changed very little in the last two or three years," Craig said.

MORE: Police union: DPD has lost more than 100 officers to suburbs in 2018

Craig said while the department loses an average of 15 cops per month by retiring, leaving, or for other reasons, they are consistently hiring about 30. He says right now 33 percent of the 2,100 officers in Detroit have been on the job less than five years.

"We train you, we pay you, most of these smaller agencies don't train," Craig said. 

Craig says most of the officers leaving for higher pay and better benefits are newer hires going to cities like Warren and Sterling Heights. Another large recruiter has been the King County Sheriff's Office in Seattle, Washington. 

"It's an advantage not only to that officer who may have had the intent from the beginning to move on to another agency, instead of paying $6,500 out of pocket, the city of Detroit taxpayers is paying and we recognize that's not what we want," said Craig.

Craig is working with the mayor's office to find ways to keep graduates committed to working in the city, agreeing the pay and benefits are subpar.

"Have we forgotten that this is a city that went through bankruptcy? Have we forgotten that?" Craig said.

The chief says while officers are underpaid and working in a challenging environment - "What a DPD officer is exposed to in a year, some of these agencies, their police officers don’t have that experience after 10, 15 years of service," Craig said.

He said the experience and opportunities with the badge are much greater.
"They're doing great work, I mean this department does more with less," said Craig.

FOX 2: "But should they be forced to do more with less?"

"Look at cities like Chicago, LA or New York that has 38,000 police officers, it comes down to one thing - dollars and cents," Craig said.

While Craig says change is certainly needed, it can't happen overnight. He reminds Detroiters that the cops who do stay and choose to defend the D, are some of the best.

"The men and women who work in the Detroit Police Department are committed," Craig said. "So they work extremely hard and they are making a difference."