PORTLAND — The City Council Tuesday night unanimously approved James Craig’s appointment as police chief.
Craig, who was given a standing ovation after the vote, said he planned to be highly visible once assuming the post May 4. He is the city’s 18th police chief and the first African-American appointed to the position.
“It is important I get to know the community and the community gets to know me,” he said outside Council Chambers, after the council vote.
Craig, 52, is a 27-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department. For the past four years has served as captain overseeing the city’s Southwest Area, which has a population of about 185,000. He is in charge of 370 personnel there.
Portland’s department of 160 police officers, said Craig, is an outstanding organization and highly professional.
“I’ve seen many police departments,” he said. “But this is the highlight of my career.”
He’ll move to Portland with his wife, Mary, who attended Tuesday’s City Council meeting, and his daughter.
City Manager Joe Gray appointed Craig following a six-month search process that began in August after chief Tim Burton took a chief position in Texas. Since then, Interim Chief Joseph Loughlin has run the department. Loughlin was praised Tuesday by several officials including Craig, who asked a crowded Council Chambers to give the deputy chief a cheer.
Loughlin, who removed himself from the running for the top cop position earlier this year, said the city did an “excellent job” finding a new chief.
Gray said he selected Craig because of the veteran officer’s experience and commitment to community policing. Craig said he plans to continue that commitment in Portland.
He said it was important to build relationships within the community, including the immigrant communities in the city. Craig said community forums were one way he approached building community in Los Angeles and that he would continue that practice in Portland. Youth initiatives are also on his priority list.
Craig said new technology is obviously helpful
in combating murder and other violent crimes, “but relationships are most important” because a community that trusts its police force will share information with them.
While braving harsh weather during his most recent visit to the city, Craig said he was amazed by how warm and inviting the people have been so far. He also joked that although Los Angeles is accustomed to dealing with celebrities, he’s felt like the paparazzi have been following him during his visit to Portland.
“I know this is the honeymoon,” said Craig. “That’s why I want to hit the ground running.”
Craig is set to officially begin May 4, but he has said he plans to be around the station before then.
Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or firstname.lastname@example.org