State civil rights head leaves to become interim Detroit police chief

    James White | Detroit Police Department photo

    Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan announced on Monday that James White will be interim chief of police of the Detroit Police Department (DPD) when James Craig retires at the end of the month.

    White was Detroit’s assistant police chief before he was appointed by the Michigan Civil Rights Commission in August to lead the state’s Department of Civil Rights as executive director.

    “James White has the depth and breadth of experience that I feel have prepared him to lead this department forward,” said Duggan. “He has my full support as well as the full support of every member of City Council and Board of Police Commissioners.”

    Craig said last week that he would retire after 13 years as Detroit police chief, effective June 1. He did not rule out a run for governor as a Republican in 2022. White served as assistant chief for eight years. He led DPD’s efforts to emerge from two decade-long federal consent agreements, which required the implementation of policies, training and processes to protect the constitutional rights of citizens.

    “Having grown up in the city of Detroit and in the Detroit Police Department, I am deeply honored and humbled to have been appointed as interim chief of police for the great city of Detroit,” White said. 

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    White is a graduate of Wayne County Community College, where he earned an associate of arts degree in general studies. He later earned a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Wayne State University and a master’s degree from Central Michigan University.

    Under the city charter, the next step in finding a new permanent chief of police will be for the Board of Police Commissioners, an 11-member body of elected and appointed men and women, to conduct a search and generate a list of candidates, from which Duggan will interview and make his selection. The charter also states that the chief of police must first be confirmed by a majority vote of Detroit City Council. Duggan said he hopes to have a new chief selected and confirmed in the next 60 to 90 days. White said that he intends to also be a candidate to become the city’s permanent chief.

    Stacie Clayton, chair of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission, was “saddened” by White’s departure and praised his service.

    “We firmly believe that he will be a transformative leader upon his return to the Detroit Police Department,” said Clayton. “We look forward to partnering with Chief White in the months ahead on issues of mutual interest.”

    Ken Coleman
    Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.