Amid rising calls on the left to “defund the police” in order to fight “systemic racism” in the criminal justice system, crime has skyrocketed throughout urban America. In what appears to be a sharp rebuke to the left’s stance, however,  two former police officers, both African American, are the presumed candidates in Michigan and New York City political races, respectively.

James Craig, a former member of the Los Angeles Police Department and police chief in both Cincinnati and his native Detroit, is the presumptive Republican candidate to run against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in Michigan’s gubernatorial race next year. Craig, who recently retired from the Detroit Police Department, has yet to formally announce his candidacy, but his retirement and potential candidacy were leaked to Detroit journalist Charlie LeDuff, who covered it on his weekly news show

In an interview with Broad + Liberty, LeDuff commented on Craig’s candidacy: “In many ways, Craig is the perfect candidate for a Michigan GOP that’s currently split between a pro-Trump faction, still in belief that the 2020 election was stolen, and the pro-business party of [George] Romney.” LeDuff continued “Craig’s a cop, who for over eight years has dealt with people of all races and backgrounds in Detroit, which makes him a lot more credible than Whitmer.”

The chief acknowledged he has discussed a possible candidacy with both state and national Republican officials, and has announced an exploratory committee. Ron Weiser, former chairman of the state Republican Party, acknowledged his discussions with Craig. “I think he would make a fine candidate, should he choose to run,” Weiser said.

In Michigan, a battleground state with great political importance, Craig’s candidacy would revitalize Republicans, who need a candidate with cross-over appeal who can also inspire Republican activists and raise money. Craig has a solid reputation as a fair, no-nonsense police chief who has spoken against the anti-police movement, been tough on crime, and supported the Second Amendment, while maintaining strong community support. This makes him a very competitive candidate to challenge Whitmer—who has been repeatedly criticized over her handling of the COVID pandemic. 

Republicans also hope the popular police chief can deliver votes for the party from Detroit, where the GOP received only 3.7% support in 2018 compared with Whitmer’s 94%. If nominated, the chief would be just the second African American to appear on Michigan’s general election ballot for governor as a Republican. Former Wayne County Executive William Lucas ran unsuccessfully in 1986.

Meanwhile, New York City Democratic mayoral nominee Eric Adams’ victory in a crowded primary has been credited to his credentials as a retired NYPD Captain. While many in his party have supported defunding the police, Adams had a stern message earlier this month for his fellow Democrats  concerning policing and the rise in violent crime.

Appearing on “The View,” the Brooklyn borough president declared it would be a “big mistake” to allow anti-police slogans to direct how New York City is governed

“I believe that you can’t run cities based on slogans. And just because you’re able to handle your Twitter handle does not mean you can handle the complexities of running the cities in America,” Adams told co-host Meghan McCain after she asked if he agreed Democrats would lose elections if they kept pushing far-left policies like “defund the police.”

While many in his party have supported defunding the police, Adams had a stern message earlier this month for his fellow Democrats  concerning policing and the rise in violent crime.

Most pundits attribute Adams’ recent success in the primary to his career in policing. From the 1980s into the mid-’90s, Adams worked for an NYPD that saw the greatest decline in crime in U.S. history. At the same time, however, Adams was also highly critical of his former employer and used his criticism toward policing to gain electoral support from the black community during his runs for New York state senate and Brooklyn Borough president. This is in an ironic contrast to the current theme of his mayoral campaign, where he has been touting his policing bona fides and posturing as a more traditional law-and-order candidate. 

At a time when crime of great concern to America, both Craig and Adams have succeeded at being characterized in the press not only as staunchly pro-police candidates but as the latest examples of the shrinking support for defunding America’s already struggling police departments.

For James Craig, these bona fides come from his rare position as a big-city police chief who had to oversee an agency that had already been “defunded” when he was appointed chief of the Detroit Police in 2013 by emergency manager Kevyn Orr amid the city’s record bankruptcy.

“Craig’s had to deal with a department that’s been defunded since the bankruptcy and had little to no resources to deal with.” said LeDuff “When police have no money to pay pensions and the average officer on the street has less than five years on the job, it’s no wonder that we’re America’s most violent city.” 

Despite his lack of resources, Craig has been lauded for his attempts to control crime and work with communities in Detroit; launching “Operation Restore Order” to target violent gangs and establishing LGBTQ outreach and a peer-support group for officers dealing with stress.

At a time when crime of great concern to America, both Craig and Adams have succeeded at being characterized in the press not only as staunchly pro-police candidates but as the latest examples of the shrinking support for defunding America’s already struggling police departments.

Craig received generally high marks from Detroit community members for his record of public service. Civil rights activist Malik Shabazz said Craig reached out to him shortly after becoming chief. “He brought us a mighty long way,” Shabazz said. “He brought energy, he brought new life, and he reached out to the community. He told us he wanted to be partners with the community and wanted us to work together. He said, ‘We’re not always going to agree on things, but we have to work together.’

New York’s Eric Adams is now the de facto standard bearer against the city’s anti-police movement. and While he appears to be winning the mayoral election on a wave of public safety concerns, an analysis of his past shows he has not only been a vocal critic of his former NYPD brethren, but may have also been a target of corruption investigations himself. 

While serving in the New York State Senate in 2011, Adams served as chair of the Senate Racing and Wagering Committee and was considered instrumental in the selection of a company to run video slot machines at the track. A scathing, 308-page state inspector general report on the casino affair found that Adams gave noncredible testimony to investigators, got campaign cash from Aqueduct Entertainment Group—the troubled gambling outfit trying to cut the deal—and showed “exceedingly poor judgment” by attending a victory celebration when the pick was first made. Eventually, the entire arrangement fell apart. “At each turn, our state leaders abdicated their public duty, failed to impose ethical restraints and focused on political gain at a cost of millions to New Yorkers,” then-Inspector General Joseph Fisch said in a statement at the time.

“It’s a really incredibly shameful episode in Adams’ time in the state Senate,” said John Kaehny, the executive director of the good government group Reinvent Albany, in a recent interview. “He’s one of the key actors in the entire ill-fated drama here … The level of cynicism and shamefulness, and just total, total obtuseness to the conflict of interest, and putting the public interest last—it’s just incredible.”

Scandals involving Adams continued in 2016, when he was investigated by the NYC Department of Investigation (DOI) for conflicts on interest between his official job as Brooklyn borough president and his not-for-profit organization. At the time, Adams insisted that rent money paid for office space in Brooklyn Borough Hall, which he was in charge of as borough president, did not illegally go into his nonprofit foundation, since such rent was strictly intended to pay for administration and building maintenance. He was eventually absolved of any criminal liability.

The 2016 investigation into Adams, however, was not unlike the sweeping corruption probe conducted by the same agency into Mayor Bill de Blasio’s fundraising and his own use of a nonprofit foundation, which is not subject to campaign finance laws.

Ironically, Adams turned down an offer by President Biden to increase the number of police on New York City’s streets. This prompted GOP rival Curtis Sliwa to say that Adams blew an “opportunity of a lifetime” to bolster the NYPD by rejecting President Biden’s offer of federal funds to hire more cops. “I scratched my head and said, ‘Eric Adams says he wants to refund the police. Eric Adams says that he’s law and order.’ How can you be law and order if you’re not gonna refund the police? And here was the money to actually do it,” Sliwa said.

While Adams is running as a Democrat in heavily Democratic New York City and almost guaranteed to win, Craig is running for governor in a purple, Rust-Belt battleground state. The fact that Craig, a prominent African American from heavily Democratic Detroit, is running as a Republican and has been frequently interviewed on Fox News presents a new opportunity for the Republican Party. 

“A Chief Craig candidacy has the potential to turn the Republican race on its head, if done right,” said John Sellek, a Republican and owner of Harbor Strategic public relations.  

Craig described his journey to becoming a Republican at his first political speech since retiring, but stopped short of announcing his candidacy for governor. Speaker as the Jackson County Republican Committee’s “Under the Oaks” anniversary celebration, Craig said “I am here to celebrate today with you under the oaks, where the Republican Party was founded”. “The truth is, I’ve been a Republican for many years—to declare my proud membership of our great party.”

If the Republicans can attract more candidates like Craig, who can speak to the failures of Democratic leadership, the impact of corruption, and the struggles of diverse Americans in big cities—the left-wing argument that the Republican party is racist or out of touch will continue to lose credibility.

A. Benjamin Mannes, MA, CPP, CESP, is a Subject Matter Expert in Security & Criminal Justice Reform based on his own experiences on both sides the criminal justice system. He has served as a federal and municipal law enforcement officer and was the former Director, Office of Investigations with the American Board of Internal Medicine.

One thought on “Ben Mannes: Former police officials, now candidates, debunk the left’s efforts to defund the police”

  1. Well what do you know? It’s almost as if “defunding police” was just a boogey man that the right wing corporate media blew way out of proportion to try smearing all Democrats who, you only NOW admit, mostly don’t agree with it.

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