James E. White takes office as Detroit's Chief of Police

On Tuesday, June 1, Detroit has a new police chief in James E. White but he's hardly new to the city or the police department. He's coming back to the department where he worked his way up to assistant chief nearly a year ago.

White took over Tuesday as the interim chief of police after James Craig announced his retirement in May. On Tuesday, he spent most of his first day meeting with his command staff and officers, which was more like a reunion of sorts.

He was born and raised in Detroit and the career cop joined the police force in 1996. Over the next 14 years, he worked his way up through the ranks and was appointed to assistant chief in 2012.

In the spring of 2020, when Craig was fighting COVID-19 in the early stages of the pandemic, White took over as interim police chief then, too. Last August, he left the department to run the state's civil rights department. But when Mayor Mike Duggan tapped him to take over, it was an offer he couldn't refuse.

"It was a tough decision but I love the city, I love the police department. I have so much respect for the men and women who do the job and, when given the opportunity, I thought about it and I said if I could go back and support the work they are doing, make a difference - that's something I would be very interested in doing," he said.

Chief White knows he has big shoes to fill after taking over for Craig, who brought strong leadership, community policing, and transparency to the department.

"The things he did were amazing. I can't be Chief Craig - I don't want to be Chief Craig - but certainly some of the lessons learned under Chief Craig I will adopt. I will do what I do. I will run the department the way I want to run the department," White said.

His top priorities as the summer heats up and the city reopens include cracking down on the rising crime rate and gun violence.

"The idea is not necessarily to lock everybody up - you can't arrest your way out of problems - but it's to be visible in those communities. So right out the gate, we want to make sure we have everybody who can patrol to be patrolling," White said.

White promises to maintain transparency as the department focuses on constitutional policing while tackling racial injustice.

"We'll expand on that. In fact, I am going to build a diversity, equity. and inclusivity unit immediately. That's something that is non-negotiable. We are beyond the point of discussion on equity and inclusiveness. It's something that has to be dealt with across the country, let alone in the department," he said.

White is also a licensed therapist who is passionate about mental health support - that includes those committing crimes and officers who fight it every day.

"We have to make sure we are keeping them upright, keeping them supported, and giving them the assistance they need. There is no shame in needing mental health support - for anyone," he said.

White has his work cut out for him, but he doesn't plan to shy away. In fact, it's a job he hopes to take on permanently.

"I can only speak to what I want. I will compete and I would like the position to serve the community and serve this city and these officers for a very long time but that's not up to me," White said.

The Board of Commissioners is in the process of a national search. White says he wants the job but that his focus is doing the best he can right now for the officers and residents of Detroit.

James E. White was named interim police chief on Tuesday, June 1.