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EXCLUSIVE: Detroit Police Chief Explains the Real Issue Behind Riots – and It's Not Race

AP Photo/Carlos Osorio

DETROIT, Mich. – Detroit Police Chief James Craig told Townhall in an exclusive interview that the unrest that's taking place across the nation has less to do with race relations and is more about a radical faction of people attempting to undermine the government.

"I can tell you that this group that's marching, like so many across the country, the anarchist factions of these groups are promoting violence and attacks on police officers. They don't speak for Detroit," he told Townhall. "And I recognize that it's not all of the protestors it's the core, that little small group, that really tries to create violence."

According to Craig, Detroiters have helped prevent groups like Black Lives Matter from causing chaos and destruction in the city . 

"I can tell you: Detroiters don't like it. They support this chief. They support this police department. They do not support defunding [the police]," he explained. "They know what defunding looks like."

When Craig was appointed seven-and-a-half years ago, "police officers lost 10 percent of their pay as the city was rapidly approaching municipal bankruptcy, which ultimately happened."

"Detroiters don't support [defunding] and police officers don't support it," he said. "And I absolutely don't support it."

Craig, who was has had a long career in law enforcement, has been part of departments in various cities. He previously served as Chief of Police in Cincinnati, Ohio and Portland, Maine. He was also an officer with the Los Angeles Police Department for 28 years. 

The biggest difference between Detroit and other cities across the nation, like Portland and Seattle, according to Craig, is the lack of support from city officials. 

"The mayor here in Detroit has confidence in my experience and my ability to do the job," Craig told Townhall. "He trusts that. We talk about different issues, but, at the end of the day, he trusts me to make the right decision. And, frankly, he has as little tolerance as I do with violence, violent attacks on police officers, destroying property. [Mayor Mike] Duggan and I are in lockstep." 

In other cities, chiefs are afraid to stand up to things they believe is wrong because law enforcement officials are at odds with city leaders. 

"How do you allow someone to set up a no cop zone, an area of lawlessness?" he asked rhetorically, referring to Seattle's CHOP/CHAZ zone. 

"When they tried that ridiculous move here in Detroit, the message was clear: you're not going to set up a zone and make demands," Craig explained.

When rioters attempted to create a zone in Detroit, police immediately arrested people. The message was apparent: lawlessness and violence wouldn't be tolerated. 

"Because of our firm stand, this department has won tremendous praise from not only our residents but also folks in metro Detroit. I get tremendous support from my colleagues across the state – and across the country – for standing up and speaking out in a bold, fearless way, that we're not putting up with this," Craig explained.

One of the concerns Americans have is whether or not this violent movement is going to come to their city. Areas that traditionally don't have officer-involved shooting or destruction are feeling the impact of the Black Lives Matter movement. With riots breaking out in smaller cities and towns, like Kenosha, Wisconsin and Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the fear is justified. 

"This is happening all across America. There's an uptick in violence. A lot of it has to do with the uptick in anti-police rhetoric and criminals are now feeling emboldened to be aggressive and attack police officers," the chief explained. 

The middle ground that Americans and law enforcement can come to, according to Craig, is simple: officers can make it clear they support a person's First Amendment right to peacefully protest. 

"What's non-negotiable is violent attacks against police officers," he explained. "Most Americans would agree with that."

Law enforcement leaders should not waiver on what they expect of protestors. Setting buildings and property ablaze, taking over the streets, and making demands are non-negotiable, Craig told Townhall.

"As a country, we have to stand firm in our resolve. We have to be unified and work together," he said. Regardless of where a person stands politically – whether left, right or in the center – and what race we are, Craig said Americans should come together to condemn violence.

"We support our men and women in uniform and, of course, in cases when an officer exceeds his authority and uses excessive force, we hold that person accountable," the chief explained. "That does not reflect the entire profession."

Craig also said the other thing that should not be tolerated are "radicals" manipulating facts surrounding an instance to incite violence. 

As cities across the nation look at diversifying their police forces, Craig pointed out that departments should be reflective of the demographic they serve. The one thing that we're seeing today are mayors and radicals calling on police chiefs to resign, regardless of their race or sex. 

"Race doesn't matter," Craig explained. "What matters to them is someone who speaks truth against what their narrative is [which is that] they're peacefully protesting, which isn't always the case."

"The real issue is not as much about the race," the chief said. "The anarchists and the Marxist Ideology, they have no support for anybody in government. They want to undermine that so it doesn't matter what race your race is. It's less about that."

"We've seen an exit of African American chiefs, some white chiefs, female chiefs. It just doesn't matter," Craig concluded.

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