Police Chief Craig Attacks on Congresswoman Waters Reflect Failure of Detroit Leadership under Mayor Duggan

Editor’s Note: Attorney Tina M. Patterson, a Detroit native is the president and director of research at The PuLSE Institute. She was previously a federal government attorney with the Social Security Administration. During her stint at the Social Security Administration, she wrote legally binding decisions for administrative law judges throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. For submission inquiries contact Bankole Thompson the editor-in-chief and dean of The PuLSE Institute at info@thepulseinstitute.org.

“The greatest stumbling block in the way of progress in the race has invariably come from within the race itself. The monkey wrench of destruction as thrown into the cog of Negro progress, is not thrown so much by the outsider as by the very fellow who is in our fold, and who should be the first to grease the wheel of progress rather than seeking to impede it.” –Marcus Garvey

By Tina M. Patterson, Esq

“The greatest stumbling block in the way of progress in the race has invariably come from within the race itself. The monkey wrench of destruction as thrown into the cog of Negro progress, is not thrown so much by the outsider as by the very fellow who is in our fold, and who should be the first to grease the wheel of progress rather than seeking to impede it.” –Marcus Garvey

In his didactic book, The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks, pioneering Harvard-trained African American attorney and international civil rights activist Randall Robinson, founder of TransAfrica, an organization that served as the catalyst to the American Anti-Apartheid movement, opened chapter 4 titled “Self-Hatred” with this quote by the legendary Jamaican icon of Black humanity, Marcus Mosiah Garvey. 

Robinson, whose work has also focused heavily on the Caribbean, details some of his efforts to bring attention to the plight of the region, including arranging meetings with prominent Black heads of state of several Caribbean countries including then Jamaican Prime Minister P.J. Patterson. For example, Robinson references one particular U.S. Congresswoman several times in the book, including a call where she agreed to cohost a meeting with Robinson’s organization, TransAfrica, to rally support for the Caribbean[1]

That Congresswoman was none other than the honorable Maxine Waters from California, who chairs the powerful House Financial Services Committee.  

Now, as we are basking in a historic victory for civil and human rights following the monumental guilty verdict of Derek Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd, Detroit Police Chief James Craig, a Black man, appeared on Fox News the day before the verdict to shamelessly denigrate this legendary Black California Congresswoman, a champion of civil rights leadership in the halls of Congress and global advocate for the African diaspora.

Craig is incensed that Congresswoman Waters traveled to Minneapolis days before the verdict in the death of George Floyd was rendered against White officer Derek Chauvin by calling on protesters to stay in the streets and demand change, which echoes the battle cry from the Civil Rights Movement.

Detroit police chief James Craig 

In what seems to be a competition to take the place of the rejected former Sheriff David Clarke from Milwaukee, Craig, on the President Trump favored Fox News, said that the “reckless and disgusting” comments by Representative Maxine Waters are “shameful” for “communities of color and other places who rely on us to do an effective job.” 

It is important to note that Craig is the police chief that former President Trump appreciates, as Trump publicly praised Craig’s efforts as police chief in Detroit last year following a summer of protests stemming from the murder of George Floyd.

Craig then flippantly denounced Waters as a leader, stating “When you have people in seats of influencing, you notice… I didn’t say seats of leadership. Because I cannot attach leadership to individuals like Waters…, that’s not leadership. Leadership is coming up with reasonable solutions, not knee-jerk reactions.”

Craig then flagrantly dismissed her decades of civil rights advocacy on behalf of Blacks in the U.S. and across the globe as “self-serving” and stated that she was “catering to a fringe group, and it’s shameful.”

Finally, Craig audaciously called for the resignation of this iconic Black Congresswoman, stating “I’d be the first person to call for her resignation and throw her a going-away party, she needs to be censured… Be quiet, and take on a role of leadership.”

Congresswoman Waters has a proven track record of leadership unsurpassed in its support of the Black diaspora here in the United States and around the world. Craig, who believes he speaks for all Black people, cannot hold a candle to her body of work when it comes to truly advocating for the interests of Black communities. 

Waters has been fighting against police brutality for nearly as long as Craig has been a police officer. In the late 1970s, when the legendary first Black mayor of Detroit Coleman Young’s integration of the Detroit Police Department allowed Craig to join the force, Waters was in California protesting against brutality following the police shooting of a Black woman. She has continually called for police accountability as a Congresswoman, and even went so far as to stop on the side of the road as a Black motorist pulled over, to make sure he would be okay in his encounter with law enforcement. 

Congresswoman Waters is a well-known and well-respected global figure for the rights of Black people across the diaspora, and has fought against forces that far surpass the power vested in any major American city police chief or mayoral administration. As aforementioned, Waters has been a ready ally to advocate for the plight of Blacks in the Caribbean, and was a strong supporter of former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristade, who was removed from power after formally requesting reparations from the French government in 2004, the bicentennial of Haiti’s revolutionary independence from French colonialism[2]

Before her election to the US Congress, as a member of the California State Assembly, Waters lobbied for divestment from South Africa to protest its racist apartheid laws and was arrested in front of the South African Consulate in Washington, D.C. for protesting the apartheid regime. When her efforts proved successful with the fall of apartheid, Waters chaired the committee that welcomed the eminent South African icon for global justice, Nelson Mandela, during his eight city tour of the United States in 1990. 

Additionally, the renowned Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), formed in the 1970s to ensure equal rights, opportunities, and access to Black Americans and other marginalized communities, played a significant role in the efforts to end apartheid. Its founding members include two iconic Detroit political leaders, Congressmen Charles Diggs and Congressman John Conyers, as well as the legendary Congresswoman Shirley Chisolm (NY) and prominent anti-apartheid activist Congressman Ron Dellums (CA). Waters, as the chair of the CBC in 1998, exalted the work of the CBC and recounted the years of painstaking struggles in that momentous battle against apartheidas she presented none other than Nelson Mandela with the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest award granted by the United States Congress.

In turn, for her leading role in opposing apartheid, Waters was awarded in 2008 by then South African President Thabo Mbeki with one of the country’s highest honors, the Order of the Companions of OR Tambo Silver Award.

Waters has also been a fierce advocate and ally for Detroit itself, and an instrumental figure in bringing federal dollars to the administration of Mayor Mike Duggan, now running for a third term in office, as recently as three years ago within the first year of his second term. Right here in Detroit, Waters helped bring federal dollars to the demolition program under the current Mayor Mike Duggan administration, after Duggan reached out to another global civil rights elder statesman, Reverend Jesse Jackson for help. Jackson sought help from Maxine Waters, and afterward confirmed he had a commitment for Duggan.

It is remarkable that Detroit’s leadership boldly represented by chief Craig on Fox News is now rewarding a Congresswoman who aided the city when it needed support the most to combat compounding issues of blight and poverty by joining calls for her censure and resignation.  Moreover the federal dollars that were made possible because of the advocacy of Waters remain a lifeline that will be acutely needed after Covid-19 has severely impacted the city’s finances. Can Craig deliver federal aid instead and more than Waters an influential member of Congress?

Since Craig is so insistent on the resignation of a civil rights leader and committed ally to the city of Detroit in the halls of Congress, who else will Duggan turn to, as he embarks on a third term, who has the decades of influence, experience, seniority, and moral authority of Waters?

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan

Mayor Duggan’s deafening silence over his police chief’s disgraceful remarks against Waters is not surprising but it cannot be ignored, and is especially appalling considering that even House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the second in succession to the U.S. presidency and one of the top leaders in Duggan’s Democratic Party, spoke up to support Congresswoman Waters against calls for her censure.

Speaker Pelosi recognized that “Maxine talked about confrontation in the manner of the civil rights movement,” and refused to condemn Waters’ comments, noting that she had nothing to apologize for.

In contrast, what Chief Craig is doing is not only disrespecting a modern day civil rights icon and unique and irreplaceable ally in the halls of the most powerful legislative body in the world, but he also dishonorably represents a historical degeneration of political leadership in Detroit. Craig is exposing the fallacy of the leadership of Mayor Duggan, whose commitment to racial justice is questionable at best, in his failure to govern with empathy and a sincere quest for equality as the first White mayor at the helm of the super majority Black city, the largest of its kind in the nation.

Detroit, unlike the Duggan administration, has long been a fortress of Black political leadership that stood up for the rights of Black people who were harassed and oppressed by police and other government institutions. It was the first African American dean of Congress from Detroit and a staunch ally of Maxine Waters, the late John Conyers, who persistently introduced a bill to study reparations for Black people in Congress that is now gaining traction after the gruesome murder of George Floyd really showcased the longstanding Black suffering and need for restoration from the oppression cast upon us in this country. 

It was Coleman Alexander Young, the first Black mayor in this city’s history, who integrated the Detroit Police Department that allowed Chief Craig to enter the law enforcement arena. Not Mayor Mike Duggan. It was federal Judge Damon J. Keith who upheld Young’s integration plan, not Duggan’s, for the police department that allowed Craig to join the force. 

In contrast, Duggan’s administration has called into question diversity in demolition contracts with the dollars Waters helped secure, and his police department under James Craig has an abysmal track record of retaining lying officers on the force, racism within one of its own precincts, and hardline policing tactics against protestors who have now sued the city in federal court alleging constitutional violations.

Rather than rid Waters, it is Craig’s hardline policing philosophy and the morally insolvent leadership of the Duggan administration that must be shown the door. In light of the recent George Floyd verdict that proves officers can and must be held accountable for their actions, Duggan’s silence along Craig’s refusal to recognize what this moment represents and his indefensible calling for the resignation of a Congressional humanitarian, have no place in Detroit or any other major city looking to transform into equitable policing that truly honors and respects Black lives.

Chief Craig does not speak for all Black people in Detroit, certainly not this author who, like Craig, is also a Black native Detroiter. Craig does not even speak for all the people of the entire city of Detroit as he would have one believe in his disgusting interviews. He has no political and moral standing to demand the resignation of Congresswoman Maxine Waters. It should be noted that Craig’s behavior is a direct reflection of the misguided leadership of Detroit Mayor Duggan.

Craig is not an elected representative chosen by the people, as is Congresswoman Waters. He is an appointed, hand-picked manufactured leader, chosen by Detroit’s first White mayor since Coleman Young. He is powerless in comparison to the awesome legislative authority of Waters and he has no global influence for anyone to follow or emulate.

Coupled with his department’s questionable unconstitutional record when it comes to housing lying officerslitigation against protestors who were beaten by police, and implementation of racially biased facial recognition technology, the conclusion is that Craig is not a leader anyone should listen to when it comes to what is best for the African American community in the nation. 

 Randall Robinson, The Debt, What America Owes to Blacks (1st Edition, 2000), p. 194.

[2] Sir Hilary McD. Beckles, Britain’s Black Debt, Reparations for Caribbean Slavery and Native Genocide (1st Edition, 2013) p. 214.

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  1. Thanks for exposing this hand picked chief of police who is part of the problem and clearly not part of the solution of the problems in policing in America today. Until we deal with the root problems of policing, we will never resolve or remove the issues. Chief Craig needs to take the handkerchief from his head and keep his mouth closed.

  2. RESPECT for our elders is the foundation for our community. This Misinformed person is an embarrassment to the people who call Detroit home. I know that the city of Detroit can do better.

  3. Another example of the DUGGAN administrations callous disregard of the opinion of Black Americans. Just as the Administration with the support of City Council appropriated $200K to sue its citizens for exerciing their Constitutional Rights and as they now are refusing to adequately fund the Detroit City Charter Revision Commission to enable it to print, distribute and translate the document for the people to read and study. The Administration has taken the position that the people don’t need to read the Charter as revised, rather, the Administration has appointed its spokespersons to tell the people what they should do as in the person of (Aprl 18, issue of The Detroit News Opinion Letter) 96 year old retired Fed. Judge Avern Cohn who doesn’t even live in the City any longer, and instigating the Charter Commission appearance before the Financial Review Commission (FRC) under the guise that the proposed Charter will send the City into Bankruptcy without one sintila of evidence or data to substantiate that allegation, mere numbers put forward by them. The Mayor needs replacing with someone more representative of our community.

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