Detroit Police Chief James Craig 1-on-1 about his career, critics and his future

After 44 years in law enforcement and eight as chief with the Detroit Police Department, on June 1st, James Craig will retire from DPD. 

"I think it's fitting to say I started here and I finished here," he said. 

FOX 2: "Chief what is next for you, are politics part of the conversation?"

"I wish I had an answer for you," he said. "I knew you were going to take me down that path. I'm humbled that so many across the state and country, part of the GOP have reached out and want me to consider a run for governor."  

During our 1-on-1 interview, he's promising a future in public service - but not policing.  

A career that started in 1977, at 19 years old as part of former Detroit Mayor Coleman Young's racial integration of DPD. his first partner a white man, with 25 years on the job. 

"As he saw me, he said 'Don't talk to me, I don't want you here, you're not going to touch the radio and you're not going to drive the car. You just sit there and be Black,' so that shocked me," Craig said.

Then came life-changing advice from his dad - who still lives in the city - where Craig spends his Sundays.  

"It was my dad's wise council that said, 'Look, this is a special and unique time. In order to be part of change, you have to stay.' And I did just that, and I have not one regret," Craig said.

He became chief under Mayor Mike Duggan during arguably one of the lowest points in department history. At that time the 911 response rates lasted up to an hour - and just 10-percent of homicides were getting solved.

FOX 2: "Looking at the faces of those officers on the streets, what did you see at that time?"

"Well, certainly they were tired, demoralized," Craig said. "DPD were defunded, they had 10 percent of their pay stripped. The officers on patrol, which was mind-boggling,  were forced into working 12-hour shifts."  

Craig immediately pared down officer shifts and within a year the department was out from state oversight, giving Craig the ability to make changes - creating Project Green Light and the real-time Crime Monitoring Center. Both have drawn praise and criticism.  

Then, a raid of Detroit police's own narcotics unit happened to weed out corruption among officers. Plus, instituting body-worn cameras - in the name of transparency.  

"Public trust trumps it all, our relationship with the community trumps it all," Craig said.

This last year was a tumultuous one in policing. There were more than 100 days of protests - led by grassroots group "Detroit Will Breathe." There was no looting and the city didn't burn, one of Craig's career accomplishments. 

"One of the things I had a grand opportunity for is, to tell the Detroit story last year and even this year, because people wanted to know why didn't Detroit burn," Craig said. "We start first with the men and women of the department that were committed relentlessly, that not only kept the protesters safe but the people who live in this city."  

Craig makes his departure with violent crime, high. Non-deadly shootings are up 50 percent and homicides up nearly 30.  It is a case he says, for why defunding the police isn't an option.  

"What do we say to the family members of victims? We never talk about the victims (when it comes to the defund the police message) and every time I throw that back, it's fascinating to watch the blank stare," he said.

Craig will call this last eight years the best of his career, teasing that this isn't the last time you'll see him.

"Stay tuned FOX 2 Detroit," he laughed.