Chief Craig reflects on time in Cincinnati with FOX19 - 19 Action News|Cleveland, OH|News, Weather, Sports

Friday marks last on the job for Police Chief James Craig

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CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) -

Friday marked Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig's last day on the job. Craig is leaving Cincinnati to take the police chief position in Detroit.

FOX19's Jennifer Grove sat down with Chief Craig to reflect on his time in the Queen City.

What are you most proud of in your time here in Cincinnati?

I guess when you talk about pride I'm actually humbled; but having a chance to work with the best police officers in this country and I mean that.

We did a lot of good things together we certainly changed work hours, changed the uniform which was a pretty big issue. The viewers might think ‘What's the issue with the uniform?' Well it really goes to morale.

What has Cincinnati taught James Craig?

So much. I didn't know what to expect coming into Cincinnati. They talk about Cincinnati being a place that resists change, a place that has had its share of racial division but I will tell you whether it's the men and women in the police department, our business community, our residents … so much outpouring of love.

A lot of times you done realize the impact you have so I leave here with my head held high.

You came in from the outside. Do you think there's something you see in Cincinnati that maybe Cincinnati doesn't even see in itself right now?

Coming in the door I was more critical than I am now. I would say that Cincinnati was very slow to change and it is but Cincinnati is no different than a lot of Midwestern type cities. There is some resistance to change. Change is hard. But despite that I brought change. I was a part of change. The fact that I got hired here was change. I think that Cincinnati is about change … those folks that are still somewhat skeptical of change they just need to let it go.

You've said yourself there's a risk in bringing somebody in from the outside. What kind of wisdom would you share to the process that's ongoing right now with the administration deciding internal candidate vs. external candidate, which way do we go?

There's tremendous talent in the Cincinnati Police Department. It's not by accident that I didn't bring anybody with me when I got here.

I'm a pro inside guy because I feel like … even though I'm an outsider saying that I'm pro inside because the Cincinnati Police Department is me, part of me. If that makes sense.

Would you do anything differently [about your decision not to take the police officer's exam]?

Absolutely not.

I am aggressive, I am about the business of making a difference. It takes courage to do that and we made a difference here so yes, I fought the state and as far as I'm concerned I won.

Biggest challenge facing the city in terms of crime as you leave?

There has to be a sense of urgency, a continuing sense of urgency. When I got here it was clear to me that violent crime was not a direct focus ... we have to constantly make this top on the agenda that we should have a zero tolerance for violence.

Is there a moment, a family, a scene that sticks out to you in your time here?

Africa Hope … I made a commitment to that family, and you probably remember by the end of the week that suspect will be in custody. Suspect was in custody.

What do you want to see in the next chief? What kind of characteristics? What kind of focus?

It should be someone who's passionate about the work here, passionate about this community, that can lead the men and women here without fear and intimidation. When you take care of the people doing the work the rest of it just happens. You can't expect to render the level of service and have an impact if the morale is down.

Will you bring people with you to Detroit?

I have reached out to some and I understand it's a big move. It's no secret that Detroit has a lot of challenges right now. I won't name their names but there are a few that are interested and I would welcome them with open arms because I feel that Cincinnati is now truly one of my homes even though I wasn't born here and I didn't go to high school here I feel I am a part of Cincinnati.

We did a phone interview with you before you were even in town and you said ‘I feel like I'm coming home' and now you truly are going home.

I thank Cincinnati because Cincinnati got me the job in Detroit.

I don't want to get emotional.

Is it emotional?

It's very emotional because in a short time to connect with so many people.

It's not like it's always been easy. But at the end of the day everybody stood up, stood with me to make sure we got this job done.

To come back and do what I love at home, it just doesn't get much better than that. But I will never forget about Cincinnati. And I'm only a drive down the I-75.

Chief Craig went on to say he was humbled by the Cincinnati support for a Mayoral run:

They believed that I could bring the kind of leadership to the city that I brought to the police department and I believe I could have. It did cross my mind and I was humbled by it but I'm a policeman and I will always be a police officer.

I would just ask that the elected leaders get it together. Stop playing with these men and women's lives, they're serving this community. They matter.

I will tell you if I had stayed here I would have resigned my positions as police chief with every ounce of energy and we would have got it done from the seat of the mayor.

While he did not endorse a candidate, Craig did offer advice to November voters:

The next mayor of this city should have a great working relationship with this police department because if this city becomes a violent city it will directly affect economic development.

Craig also discussed race relations in the Queen City:

One of the challenges here in Cincinnati is the issue of race. I think if I could offer Cincinnati any advice, and this is certainly not reflective of all, let's let that go. Let it go. We are all in this together. The police officers supported me, I could have been green. They wanted leadership. They got leadership. I hope from this, maybe this will change the way people look at that. Everything should not hinge on race. This is a great city but we still need to work on it.  

On Friday, a farewell party was held for Craig at Mahogany's at the Banks.

Assistant Chief Paul Humphries has been named interim chief until a replacement is found.

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