Bill McGraw reports for Bridge, a Michigan Radio partner in the Detroit Journalism Cooperative.
The Black Lives Matter movement was peaking a year ago, when protesters took to the streets of Baltimore over the death of a black man in police custody. On the same day, an angry crowd gathered on Evergreen Road on Detroit’s west side.
The situation on Evergreen quickly grew tense. An agent from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement who was on a task force with Detroit police had shot and killed a 20-year-old black Detroiter, Terrance Kellom, a parole absconder who was wanted for armed robbery.
“Huge crowd. We were surrounded,” Assistant Chief Steven Dolunt recalled in late March. “They were calling for the chief. I called him. I said, ‘You need to get here right away. Now.’’’
The chief of police is James Craig. The crowd knew him because in nearly three years at the top of the Detroit Police Department, he has become such a familiar figure on city streets and media outlets that some people, both friends and foes, call him “Hollywood.”
Craig’s style is low-key and controlled, more Woodward Avenue than Sunset Strip, but he doesn’t mind the nickname. He says his visibility is part of a deliberate strategy to communicate with Detroiters.