Replacing James Craig, Great Lakes levels fall, a farm internship for convicts in Washtenaw County

Who should fill the role of Detroit's outgoing police chief? A position held by James Craig for eight years will become available next month and those tasked with deciding who to go with will have their hands full.

Hiring the top cop in the state's largest city invites a lot of scrutiny just because of the responsibility of the position. But temperatures and tensions are high in the conversations over law enforcement and after a year of mass protests against police shootings. Selecting someone new will require balancing the whims of the public with the institutional professionalism the job demands.

Chief Craig wasn't very sympathetic to the calls from advocacy groups to reduce the presence of Detroit police in the city. It earned him online feuds with politicians, interviews on national TV, and calls for him to resign. Should the next person for the job take a different stance?

"There's a criminal justice reform effort that is going on across the country, and policing is a national thing now. Policing is not local anymore because if it happens here and it starts a trend, it becomes a national story," said former police chief Ralph Godbee. "You're only one incident away from your department coming under national scrutiny."

It happened in Minneapolis last year and a suburb of the city this year when Black men died as a result of actions by police. The result was a high-profile criminal trial in one case and the resignation of a police chief in the other.

Detroit waded through the protests that spread through U.S. cities last year with general peacefulness - something Craig has been happy to promote while he discouraged further violence and argued against following the calls from groups like Detroit Will Breathe.

Members of the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners will be tasked with coming up with a shortlist of candidates.

"Do they understand Black Lives Matter? Do they understand those issues that we've got young African-Americans being killed and that is a platform that policing has got to understand now," said Willie Bell, board of police commissioners.

Bell said the bar is high for anyone looking to fill the shoes that will be left empty by Craig on June 1. 

A critic of Craig, Eric Williams who is the managing attorney for the Detroit Justice Center, said the next candidate should be more apt to reform of the department.

"I think though, for the long-term good of the city, you probably would be better off finding someone who, regardless of the type of department that they come from, has demonstrated a commitment to actually reforming the way law enforcement interacts with the city and how the city pursues public safety," Williams said.

Some names that have been floated include Dallas Police Chief Renee Hall, Detroit Fire Commissioner Eric Jones, Southfield Police Chief Elvin Barren, and James White, the director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights.

After the board has its list, it will share it with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. His selection will need to be approved by the city council. It's a process that could take months and will likely include the hiring of an interim chief as well.

Great Lakes levels starting to recede

After a brutal stretch of damaging winds, eroding shorelines, and rampant flooding, the Great Lakes are finally taking a breather from their record-breaking rise over the past five years. A spell of dry and mild weather has replaced the wetter conditions that have kept the Great Lakes region soaked for years.

While levels are still above normal, they're beneath the 2020 heights that were recorded in Lakes Michigan and Huron. According to the Detroit Army Corps of Engineers, the decreases are going to continue.

"Over the next six months, the worst is behind us," John Allis, chief of Great Lakes hydrology for the Corps' Detroit district told the Associated Press. "We really shouldn’t be seeing anywhere near the record highs that we saw last year."

The lake levels rose rapidly after a long-winding decline from the 90s. The two extremes occurring in such close proximity to each other is a sign of increasing volatility in the region as it related to weather.

Woman's body found in Westland storage unit

The discovery of a woman's body in Westland have led police to investigate a Van Buren Township murder on Sunday. According to law enforcement, a 32-year-old man shot and killed the woman at the Westlake Apartments before moving her body.

While police were at the apartment, they discovered a murder scene but no body. They also located the suspect, who was in Monroe County at the time.

After his arrest, the police obtained a search warrant for the storage unit in Westland, where they eventually found the 31-year-old victim's body.

An investigation is ongoing, police said, and officials are in the process of notifying the victim's family.

Washtenaw farm offers former convicts a second chance

A Washtenaw County farm is offering paid internships to recently-released former convicts in hopes of reducing the chance they return to prison while giving them a foundation to build a better life.

Melvin Parsons spent 13 years of his life in and out of prison before he decided it was time for a change. "Our mission is to break the cycle of incarceration in Washtenaw County," he said. "Our motto is to change the soil of those we come in contact with."

If there's one thing that Parson has learned from working at Opportunity Farms, it's the importance of soil. Good topsoil is going to allow plants to flourish, he says. But without quality space to grow, it's going to be harder to procure anything. 

Using farming and growing food as the vehicle, Parsons is helping others channel their own effort into something more productive for society than a potential arrest and charge for another crime. "You are learning something, you can get a trade in the long run," he said. "You learn how to plant, do compost."

What else we're watching

  1. Memorial Day travel is expected to balloon this year after a pandemic-shuttered 2020. AAA Travel expects a jump of 60% in travel from the previous year. Be wary of traffic and long lines at the pump ahead of the weekend.
  2. President Joe Biden will visit Michigan next week ahead of Ford's unveiling of its electric F-150 pickup truck. The Detroit News reported Biden will be touring the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center.
  3. FOX 2 caught up with the outgoing police chief after his announcement about retiring and his future political endeavors. Watch the whole interview here.
  4.  Live music is starting to return to the schedule of 2021. TIckets for Evanescence for a December concert will go on sale this Friday while the Zac Brown Band will be coming to DTE Energy Music Theater in September.
  5. The World Health Organization has labeled the COVID variant from India a global health risk. Evidence shows it's more transmissible and some studies show it can evade the protections offered by vaccines. However, the shots are still considered effective.

Live on FOX 2

Daily Forecast

It's going to be 54 degrees and partly cloudy for much of the afternoon and evening while the sun will be out for most of the morning. The cold will slowly ease starting tomorrow with an almost 10-degree swing up.

Melinda Gates had concerns over Bill's possible ties to Jeffrey Epstein: report

Melinda Gates was supposedly concerned with her soon-to-be ex-husband Bill Gates’ relationship with disgraced financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein in the years leading up to their high-profile divorce last week, according to a Sunday report.

People familiar with the couple’s divorce proceedings and a former employee of their charity, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, told The Wall Street Journal that Melinda’s concerns about Epstein went back as far as 2013.

Those sources said Melinda told her husband she was uncomfortable with Epstein after the couple met him that year, but Bill reportedly continued a relationship with Epstein, despite her concerns.

Bill previously played down his relationship with Epstein, telling The Journal in 2019 that he had met him but "didn’t have any business relationship or friendship with him."