Almost a full decade after Cincinnati voters passed a charter amendment that changed the way police chiefs are selected, it's being used for the first time.
City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. announced this morning that he's selected a candidate from outside the current police ranks to head the Cincinnati Police Department. James E. Craig, who currently is the chief in Portland, Maine, will take the top spot here beginning in about a month, a city spokeswoman said.
In his new position, Craig, 54, will be paid $135,000 annually. He is Cincinnati's first African-American police chief.
In Portland, which is a city of about 65,000 residents, Craig managed a police department with a staff of 215 people. In Cincinnati, which has about 297,000 residents, he will oversee a department with 1,057 sworn personnel.
But Craig previously oversaw 390 personnel and a $42 million budget while he worked in a command position with the Los Angeles Police Department.
Dohoney said Craig's leadership in developing Portland's first strategic plan for its Police Department was instrumental in helping Craig win the job here.
Among Craig's accomplishments in Portland, he implemented a data-driven CompStat process as a crime reduction strategy; within three months of its implementation, the city had a 10 percent reduction in violent crime and a 1 percent reduction in property crime. Additionally, Craig created the Chief’s Community Advisory Board, which is credited with improving police-community relations.
“When I looked at his wide-ranging and successful experience as a front line commander, his executive management skills, and proven commitment to partnership and community building, I was confident choosing him as chief,” Dohoney said in a prepared statement. “He believes in and will advance the principles of community oriented policing. He has a track record of using the latest technologies and police practices that will help meet Cincinnati’s complex challenges, and he will bring his drive for results to better the department and the community.”
Before moving to Maine, Craig spent 28 years on the Los Angeles Police Department, where he retired as a captain in 2009.
During his time with the LAPD, Craig served as the commanding officer in Juvenile Division and the Operations Support Divisions, where he was directly responsible for patrol operations, special enforcement units, the administrative support unit, the detective section, and the vice unit.
As part of his job in Los Angeles, Craig implemented strategies to sustain crime reduction efforts over a three-year period in the Southwest LA area. In that period, violent crimes dropped by 27 percent, property crimes dropped by 21 percent, homicides by 22 percent, and shooting victims dropped by 31 percent.
Further, a year-long joint LAPD/FBI operation targeted a local gang that resulted in arrest warrants served in 22 locations, Dohoney said.
Craig began is career with the Detroit Police Department in 1977.
Craig's selection is the culmination of a nationwide search that began in January, in anticipation of Police Chief Thomas Streicher Jr.'s retirement in March.
As part of the process, Dohoney surveyed citizens to ask about attributes they considered important in a police chief. Also, Dohoney conducted focus groups with representatives from various segments of the city. Based on the responses, a position description and recruitment brochure was released nationally.
Eventually, five community members worked with city staffers in reviewing applications. This screening committee narrowed the pool from 43 to six candidates, each of whom had interviews with the committee.
In November 2001, just seven months after riots sparked by the police shooting death of an unarmed black man, Cincinnati voters approved the charter amendment known as Issue 5. It gave authority to the city manager to hire and fire the chiefs and assistant chiefs in the Police and Fire departments rather than using a civil service process. Under the system approved by voters, the positions could be filled from outside current ranks rather than being limited to in-house candidates from a promotion list based on exam scores.
Until the switch, Cincinnati was one of the few major cities in the nation without the option of hiring outside chiefs, leading to what some called “organizational in-breeding” and a dearth of new ideas.
Issue 5's supporters said the change would bring fresh perspectives to the Police Department and provide more accountability for its leaders. Opponents — which included Streicher and the police union — insisted Issue 5 would make the police chief’s job too vulnerable to the whims of City Council. The union also alleged it amounted to an unfair labor practice because it violated terms of previous Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) contracts.
During the heated campaign over Issue 5, Streicher was reprimanded by a previous city manager for wearing his uniform while stumping against the amendment because it violated the city’s personnel policies. Streicher shrugged off the action, perhaps demonstrating how the old system led to complacency and defiance because the chief knew he couldn’t be fired unless he committed a felony-level criminal offense.
Voters ultimately sided with supporters and approved the amendment 52-48 percent.
The FOP filed a lawsuit trying to overturn the amendment, which wound its way through the courts for years. In January 2009, the Ohio Supreme Court dismissed the union’s appeal, leaving intact an earlier ruling by the State Employment Relations Board that upheld the charter amendment.
In the current search for a new chief, two of the four finalists were in-house candidates: Lt. Col James Whalen, an assistant chief who is the son of ex-Chief Larry Whalen and is a 25-year department veteran; and Lt. Col. Vincent Demasi, an assistant chief who is an ex-president of the police union and is a 29-year veteran with the CPD.
The other finalist was Brian Jordan, a retired captain from the police department in Washington, D.C. Jordan spent 10 years as an assistant chief there but was demoted to captain in a 2007 department reorganization. He retired amid controversy earlier this year after allegations he interfered in an investigation and had a female suspect released from jail and lobbied to have her charges reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor.