“When James Craig took on the job as Detroit Police chief last year, the city was facing the prospect of bankruptcy, the political structure had collapsed, an emergency manager was in place, police precincts were closed to the public after 4 p.m. and the department was in need of a serious shakeup.”
That’s how Deadline Detroit’s interview with Chief Craig begins.
In a lengthy back-and-forth discussion, Deadline’s Allan Lengel gets Craig’s insights on the department’s restructuring during bankruptcy, the city’s culture of crime and the improvements the department has made after what he says were decades of disinvestment.
“It was the greedy, dirty corrupt, status quo politicians that destroyed this city. Certainly I’m talking about past administrations, I’m going back before Bing. They didn’t invest in this police agency, they didn’t invest in public safety, they didn’t care about it. It’s evident. I mean when you look at the dilapidated vehicles. The blessing for us, our friends in Detroit corporate world donated 100 new police vehicles and that was great.”
Craig isn’t sure he’ll stay on past Orr’s tenure — he reports to the emergency manager but says he attends Mayor Mike Duggan’s weekly cabinet meetings. But while he’s here, he’s dedicated to continuing department and community improvements.
“As much as I tell you that I’m comfortable in telling you crime is down that doesn’t mean that we have fixed it. I’m saying the work continues,” he says. “Kevyn Orr did not bring this fiscal crisis to Detroit. Kevyin Orr is fixing it, giving the hand he ‘s dealt.
Detroit’s police officer and fire fighter unions have not reached contract agreements with the city during the bankruptcy proceedings, and based on a court filing Friday, it’s not sounding like the police will any time soon.
The Detroit Police Officers Association filed an Objection to the city’s Plan of Adjustment, and it’s highly critical of the city’s actions. The officers’ group claims Detroit and the state have used PA 436, the law providing for emergency managers and the bankruptcy’s prohibition on lawsuits against the city to avoid arbitration with employees.
The Detroit Free Press writes:
The union argues that the city is punishing the DPOA for not coming to an agreement, and that the federal bankruptcy code can’t be used to either impose lesser terms on the union compared to city unions that have agreed to settlements, or to strip them of rights to bargain employment conditions. The union also notes that other financial creditors are arguing that the city’s proposed pension cuts — now reduced to 0% for the PFRS and 4.5% for the General Retirement System — are unfair since other creditors are taking deeper hits.
Indeed, the city and several of its employee groups — the court-mandated Official Committee on Retirees and a coalition of employee unions including the American Federal of State, County an Municipal Employees local council — have agreed on terms of deals related to contracts and other employee provisions.
But the DPOA’s objection doesn’t make it sound like they’re even close to a deal. The court filing reads:
The City’s cynical treatment of the men and women who provide “core” and “essential” police protection is the punishment the members of the DPOA stand to receive because they have reached what would otherwise be a readily resolvable impasse with the City as to economic terms of a collective bargaining agreement.
Judge Steven Rhodes will ultimately decide on the feasibility and reasonableness of the city’s post-bankruptcy plan at a hearing scheduled to begin July 24.
Here is the text of the full Objection:
Detroit’s attorneys have submitted their final plan for how the city will exit the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. But the president of the Detroit Police Officers Association, Mark Diaz, says union officials may sue to stop the so-called Plan of Adjustment. The city’s plan, Diaz tells WDET’s Quinn Klinefelter, will drive police officers from the city because of low pay and other employment conditions. “We’re negotiating on behalf of not just the Detroit police officers, we’re also negotiating on behalf of the citizens of the city of Detroit,” Diaz says. “We don’t want our seasoned veterans to have to leave and have to find employment elsewhere. We don’t want to have a hard time recruiting police officer to come to a city that desperately needs more qualified recruits.”