LeDuff: Good luck Chief Craig, Detroit is counting on you - My29 WFTC Minneapolis-St. Paul

LeDuff Off the Chain: Good luck Chief Craig, Detroit is counting on you

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Incoming Detroit Police Chief James Craig Incoming Detroit Police Chief James Craig
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OFF THE CHAIN EDITORIAL

DETROIT (WJBK) -- The commanding officer of the Detroit Police homicide squad takes part in a staged purse snatching in the middle of Corktown using undercover cops. A local TV news crew is in tow to record the reactions of unsuspecting citizens.

To me, that's simply playing candid camera with the emotions of a beleaguered city.

More disgusting, the presence of an FBI agent who is pumping gas, but not briefed on the joke. Thank God nobody was killed.

This is your Detroit Police.

Why would the commanding officer, Insp. Dwayne Blackmon, participate in such an immature and dangerous stunt? Maybe he could use the tape to blame Detroiters and their supposed "no-snitch" attitude toward crime for his inability to solve homicide cases (less than 25 percent, the worst in the country, by my count. And yes, I'm tracking it).

Remember, Officer Joseph Weekley is on trial for the accidental shooting of seven-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones back in 2010. Cops were trying to arrest a homicide suspect in the middle of the night. A flash-bang grenade was used.  A camera crew was in tow. The commander of the homicide squad back then, as he is now, was Insp. Blackmon.

Somebody get the man a watch, because he's got bad timing. In fact, get him a retirement watch because a new chief of police is coming, and he's promised to straighten out garbage like this.

Allegations of secret surveillance of the civilian police commissioner. Fudged murder statistics. Overworked, demoralized, ill-equipped, underpaid and disrespected police officers forced to play purse snatcher.

Can the new chief, James Craig, succeed in the face of such dysfunction? Remember, he is the fifth chief of police in Mayor Dave Bing's miserable four years in office.

On the negative side:

Bing is out to lunch. His reaction to Wednesday's purse debacle? Nothing. When his spokesman was asked if the mayor didn't at least find it a bogus use of scant resources, the spokesman said, "Everybody's got an opinion I guess."

Bing brought in a new fire commissioner to straighten out an equally broken fire and ambulance system. Commissioner Don Austin has failed. One, he had no experience running a department the size of Detroit. But in Austin's defense, he inherited a hidebound department that works under antiquated rules. His predecessors didn't keep receipts, and Austin was given a basket of empty promises by Bing. Remember the pledge of 22 new ambulances? This week there were as few as eight covering Detroit's 140 square miles. The average vehicle mileage -- a quarter million miles.

It is worse in the police department, where the command staff acts as though the joint is their personal frat house. The officers forced to play purse snatchers are being singled out as snitches by commanders who complain about Detroit's no-snitch culture.

But on the positive side:

The public is fed up and is demanding a modern, professional police force. The rank and file are fed up and demanding a competent command structure. Junior commanders are demanding an end to the good-old-boy network that has destroyed the department. And Bing -- who has been neutered by the emergency manager -- has no decision-making power despite his pantomiming to the contrary. 

Good luck Chief Craig. Bring rubber gloves, a nose pin, a bottle of bleach, a rosary and an iron fist. We're counting on you.

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