It's a résumé made for Cincinnati. New Police Chief James Craig has worked in gang suppression, internal affairs, employee relations and community policing. He commanded the Juvenile Division for the Los Angeles Police, and was in South Central L.A. when the riots broke out in 1992.

"The guy that stomped on Reginald Denny, that was a Crips gang member. I had several encounters with him," he says, recalling one of the most vivid scenes of the Rodney King riots. "I was in the area where that took place.

"I know the (2001) civil insurrection was big here," he says. "But with apologies, it was peanuts compared to L.A. We had 53 people killed."

All that experience is a good fit for Cincinnati, where drug gangs, youth shootings and black-on-black violence are big concerns. And for a Cincinnati Police Division considering manpower cuts: Craig has been there, too. After 3 1/2 years as a Detroit cop, he was laid off. He moved to Los Angeles for a 28-year career on a force that has seen more crime and controversies than a library of Hollywood scripts.


In Portland, Maine, where he was chief for two years, Craig was named Most Influential by a local magazine. He calls himself a "change technician" and "an outsider" "” just what Mayor Mark Mallory and City Manager Milton Dohoney were probably looking for when they decided to hire the city's first outsider in the department's 209 year history. He is also the first black police chief.

But there are things a résumé can't say. To know Craig, you have to know about L.A. Officer Randal Simmons. "We went through the academy together," Craig says. "He was killed on duty by a person with mental illness, who had just shot three family members."

Simmons was on the SWAT team, among the first into a dark house, and was shot in the head almost immediately. Craig says losing his best friend defined him. It led to his work with high-risk youth.

Craig found out Simmons had been spending off-duty weekends in the toughest neighborhoods in L.A., going unarmed, alone, to work with kids. "He was a strong Christian man, and he ministered to them," Craig says. "He showed them love so they would make better choices."

Craig adopted the same mission and started a boot camp for troubled kids in L.A. "The school officials were very apprehensive at first about having police on campus," Craig says. "But I said, "¢Give me your 25 worst, the ones who don't attend school, the ones caught with guns.' After 10 weeks, the kids who hated the police, loved us. We showed love to those kids and turned their lives around."

To skeptics, that may sound like a social worker with a badge. But Craig says, "We have to get the egos out of it. We've got to find a way to stop the violence. One person we touch may save a life, or two lives, because a shooting ruins the life of the perpetrator and the victim. We all want the same thing. Stop the violence."

Craig says he respects the traditions and history of the Cincinnati department, "But we can't get stuck on the old ways just because we've always done it that way." He compares himself to a guy who walks into a house for the first time and spots a crack in the ceiling that everyone else has learned to ignore. "There's an advantage of having an outsider perspective."

"Morale is great" at CPD, he says. "But when I got here morale was at the bottom. I heard from the union president and in my research that people were miserable and didn't feel appreciated. Now I've got people stopping me in the street. There's an air of excitement, in spite of the possibility of losing officers to budget cuts. I'm so excited about the quality of our officers. They are committed, dedicated, smart and highly educated.

"This is not meant to be an indictment of the former administration," he adds. "It's a police culture thing. Every department has it, the top-down chain of command. But the doctorate I'm working on is in organizational leadership. There's a place for rank structure, but the paramilitary structure is not my thing."


"This is not my police department. It belongs to the community," Craig says.

The former administration of Chief Tom Streicher led CPD through some earthquake upheavals. Scapegoated by politicians and media for the riots of 2001, they were put under the thumb of a federal monitor. Streicher led CPD past a protest slowdown by cops, out of a bunker of resentment and through a post-riot surge in black-on-black homicides and drug-gang violence. Community relations have improved. "They've done a great job," Craig says.

But he has more changes in mind, starting with little things. He lifted the rule requiring cops to wear their white hats on duty. He allowed supervisors to take off their neckties. And he's considering a change from six-day shifts to four-day weeks of 10-hour days.


But no question, he will be judged by the challenge to stop shootings like the ones that shook up Cincinnati in late August: One man was killed when he shot at a cop at Findlay Market; a 16-year-old was killed by police after pulling a gun on a cop on Fountain Square.

"If parents take responsibility as good role models, if schools train leaders, if police act as mentors, if businesses get involved and support it, that's when you will see the guns go away," Craig says. He wants to start an after-school boot camp like the one he launched in L.A., and he wants to get Bengals players involved, because their status as pro athletes gives them street credibility to reach kids.

But don't count on him for a gun-control crusade. "I have a different view on gun laws. We had very restrictive gun laws in California and it had no impact on a safer city. No impact. It's not the good people with guns that are a problem. And the bad ones will get a gun whenever they want.

"When I got to Portland, I had to approve conceal carry permits. I had a stack on my desk a foot high, and I was denying them because I was programmed. Then someone called me and said, "¢You can't do that here, this is Maine.' I realized the good Americans are not the problem. With all these folks in Maine with concealed permits, we had the lowest crime.

"I think guns should be placed in the hands of responsible Americans. Concealed carry permits have nothing to do with crime. If anything, they can be a deterrent."


Craig's hobby is muscle cars. He has a 1970 Pontiac GTO and a 2007 Corvette Z06 with 525 horsepower. In L.A. and Portland he started car shows to raise money for youth programs and recruit police officers. He hopes to do that in Cincinnati "” and lots more.

But he's still learning the local landscape, which has its share of political trapdoors, especially at City Hall. And as the first outsider, he knows he is also subject to political pressure or dismissal, without the Civil Service protection of previous chiefs. "The average tenure for the chief in a large city is three to five years," he says. "I have my Los Angeles retirement, so I am not a hostage. I'm going to go in and work as hard as I can. But this is not a popularity contest. I will do things for the right reasons."

If it works out, Cincinnati will be the last stop on his résumé.