City's first black police chief 'taken aback' at claims of racism, 'rogue element' in CPD

Then-City Manager Milton Dohoney swears in James Craig as Cincinnati's first African-American police chief on Aug. 2, 2011. (Photo: FOX19 NOW/file)
Then-City Manager Milton Dohoney swears in James Craig as Cincinnati's first African-American police chief on Aug. 2, 2011. (Photo: FOX19 NOW/file)

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Cincinnati's first African-American police chief and arguably its most popular one says he's 'taken aback' by claims of a "rogue element:" and racism in the top levels of the police department against the current black chief and city manager.

"I am very surprised. I am taken aback. It's hard for me to grasp that," James Craig said.

In addition to being the city's first black chief, Craig also was Cincinnati's first chief selected from outside the ranks.

He served just under two years from 2011 to 2013 before leaving to helm the police department in his hometown of Detroit, Michigan, where he continues working today.

"Here I am the first outside chief who was not home grown in Cincinnati and the first African-American chief and I did not sense those kinds of things," Craig said Monday in a phone interview.

"I've had people reach out and say they miss me and say 'we wish we had your leadership now.'"

For their sake, he said, the controversy should be settled as soon as possible.

"I can only imagine it's effecting the morale of rank and file and when that happens, there's negatives that happen and you can't focus on the real issues like continuing to reduce crime in the city and quality of life issues so they have got to move away from this very quickly."

City Manager Harry Black wrote to city leaders last week he wants federal prosecutors to root out a "rogue element" he claims is "corrupt" within the Cincinnati Police Department and undermining the authority of Chief Eliot Isaac.

Some police employees are disrupting operations, according to Black, because they don't want to work for an African-American chief and city manager.

Black and the police chief are upset over recent leaks of police documents to the media:

  • a draft audit of a police overtime audit our news partners at the Cincinnati Enquirer obtained that revealed problems, poor oversight and some employees intentionally maximizing compensation.
  • a memo FOX19 NOW obtained in January about an active internal investigation into whether two officers got paid for off-duty details they may not have entirely worked.

After the latest leak, Black forced out the second-highest ranking police official, Executive Assistant Police Chief Dave Bailey, a 31-year veteran.

Black has not publicly accused anyone of leaking to the media or disrupting operations.

Bailey's settlement agreement reads: "The parties agree not to disparage each other. If asked, the City shall state: 'Lt. Col. David Bailey has loyally served the city of Cincinnati with distinction for over 30 years. The city thanks Lt. Col. David Bailey for his service.'"

Black also has not asked federal officials to investigate.

Craig said the city manager might first hire an outside consultant to review the situation before leaping to calls for a federal review.

"I just gotta believe that if there was some issues inside the organization, in my humble opinion, I may want to bring in an outside consultant team to take a look into the issues he is referring to to find out if they even exist.

"But to say you are going to bring in the (U.S. Department of Justice) for a "rogue element," that's not the way I would approach it. When you talk about the DOJ,  you talk about 'is it a criminal element?'  What's going to be done about it? That's a heavy statement, a heavy criticism of that organization, one I have only been away from almost five years.

"It's unfortunate with everything that's going on right now. It comes down just really to one thing: leadership. It sounds simple. I am not being critical. I am not there to know the nuances with what's taken place, but it's unfortunate. I think a lot of times a lot of issues can just be resolved through good leadership.

"I can only speak on what my experiences were and if anything is going to go bad if it's about race then there would have been plenty of opportunity for it to happen when I came in as the first outside chief and the first African-American one. And the city manager also happened to be black at the time. I just didn't feel that. Now that doesn't mean there weren't individuals who did not want me there, but all in all as a management team, I thought we all worked well together."

Related stories:

P.G. Sittenfeld backs city manager, police chief

Draft audit of CPD overtime: 'Intentional actions to maximize compensation'

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