Chief Craig, Please Stop Going on Fox News

Is Detroit Police Chief James Craig’s recent appearances on Fox News actually helping the city?

James Craig

Opinion Piece

Hey, Chief Craig. Hi. How’s it going? Not sure if you remember me, but for about two and a half years, I sat behind you every Wednesday morning in the mayor’s cabinet meeting. I sat there usually to avoid eye contact with the mayor himself, because we know what happens when he puts you on the spot in front of everyone to ask how a project is going that you’re working on.

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We rarely got a chance to talk one on one, but I feel like we need to talk now. You see, even though I don’t work for the city anymore, I still think about my colleagues there daily and the hard work they do every day to make Detroit better. You and I know this is no easy task. There’s always something that keeps everyone in cabinet from reaching their full potential – a budget shortfall here, a bunch of red tape there. 

Because of that, everyone was cognizant that we shouldn’t be making things harder for anyone else as we tried to make things easier for Detroit residents. Lately, though, it seems that thought process is waning at the highest levels of the Detroit Police Department. You’ve been seen – or talked about – on Fox News a lot in recent weeks, and, well, that’s not good for anyone. 

Oh, of course, the time that you said there was a Marxist conspiracy in the city wasn’t your first time on the channel. And as chief of one of the biggest forces in the country in a violent city, it’s expected that you’d be asked to do some airtime somewhere. But all of these Fox appearances lately have run counter to everything your current colleagues have worked for, everything Detroiters represent at large and everything everyone has worked so hard to overcome in the last decade.

This is a Black city. You are a Black police chief. Most of your subordinates are Black. Why, first of all, are you regularly appearing on a channel that disrespects who we are? Wait, don’t answer that. Because I get it. It’s very much the PR strategy that was in place before and after I worked there, and still is now: Make those national appearances to assert dominance and confidence in the department as a whole, right? Show everyone watching Detroit that the police force is in full control, and have that validated by being interviewed by some of the biggest – regardless of platform – names in journalism, right?

Except for Fox News and the other conservative platforms where your name, image and, now, Detroit’s image, is appearing on lately, they don’t have Detroit’s best interest in mind. And it is your job to have Detroiters’ best interest in mind, correct? Fox is unconcerned with all that. They’re exploiting us and, by proxy, you’re exploiting the force with every appearance you make.

There’s probably not a more burdened public employee anywhere in the country right now than a Black police officer. These are folks who have chosen to serve their community in often thankless positions, protecting civilians (I prefer residents, but I have to use policespeak here) in dangerous cities like ours while risking their own lives – often for little pay, I might add.

But you and I both know that public perception of police officers has shifted in the last few years. I know you’ve seen “defund the police” and “abolish the police” everywhere. I know it’s fundamentally against everything you stand for.

But considering that everything a Black officer has to go through, why add to their stress? They’re called sellouts by people who look like them, the ones they’ve chosen to serve. They wrestle every day with going to work and wondering what to do when they have to pull over or arrest someone like them. (All of these emotions, by the way, were explored in a documentary we produced during my time in Media Services about DPD. We waited weeks and weeks for DPD’s media team to properly review it before we just started airing it on the cable channels ourselves.)

So, for you to go on Fox and all the rest while your own force is out there struggling. I mean, have you talked to the officers in the lower ranks lately? Do you know how they feel?

Have you talked to Detroiters lately? I get it – those “outside agitators” are annoying. (I ain’t gonna lie, I was laughing right at some of those memes on Facebook, too. You know the ones.) I mean, you can’t say it, but I will: White people who come into the city from the suburbs just to stir things up are annoying. So are the (handful of) white people who don’t claim suburban addresses who live in the city. I get that. 

It’s still a mostly Black city after all, and here come these pesky white millennials who think they know everything, right? But instead of becoming all too consumed with them, what about those majority Black Detroiters – of all ages – who have those same concerns? Have you talked with them? Has DPD had any dialogue with Black millennials, some of whom you might be shocked to learn have the same views as the agitators you despise?

I can only speak for myself as a former mayoral appointee. But I think it might also be safe to say that some of my former/your current colleagues might be alarmed at your Fox appearances as well. And we both know the last thing anyone wants is discord at the highest levels of cabinet.

So maybe it’s time to reel it in? Think twice about whether to spread that so-called Marxist conspiracy theory and actually talk with residents – er, civilians – in real life? Because while all of this may be good for you, none of this is good for Detroit.

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