NEW: James Craig Touted Robust Enforcement of COVID-19 Public Safety Protocols Before Coming Out Against Them as a Candidate for Governor

LANSING — Republican gubernatorial candidate James Craig claims to “lead from the front”, but his approach to tackling COVID-19 tells a different story, changing dramatically as he grew to prioritize his political gain over the health of the communities he swore to serve.

When asked about his decision to enforce COVID-19 safety protocols by issuing “6,000 tickets” before he stopped issuing citations to businesses and individuals that wouldn’t impose capacity limits or social distance, Craig claimed he was “leading from the front” by simply following “what was passed down from the governor to our mayor.” In actuality, Detroit PD “publicized its enforcement” efforts under his leadership.

Craig then changed his position and halted his own enforcement protocols, calling his decision to mirror the actions of other jurisdictions and “not issue another ticket” after observing an anti-mask protest in Lansing “leading from the front.”

MDP spokesperson Rodericka Applewhaite issued the following statement:

“Party insiders’ handpicked candidate James Craig is another typical politician talking out of both sides of his mouth and refusing to give straight answers to questions on nearly every issue. The only thing Craig manages to stay on top of is never missing an opportunity to dodge accountability and responsibility. Someone who jumps horses and follows the crowd when it’s politically expedient isn’t someone who can claim to ‘lead from the front.’” 

See below for excerpts from The Detroit News on James Craig’s flip-flop on how he addressed the pandemic and read the full report here.

The Detroit News: Why James Craig ‘didn’t like’ COVID tickets once touted by Detroit police
By Craig Mauger

Former Detroit police Chief James Craig, a Republican who’s exploring a run for Michigan governor, says he “absolutely didn’t like” hundreds of tickets handed out by his department to enforce Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s COVID-19 restrictions.

During a Monday press conference, Craig said he eventually made a “unilateral decision” to stop handing out citations under Whitmer’s emergency orders. But before that happened, Craig’s agency publicized its enforcement, faced a lawsuit from an anti-abortion demonstrator who was cited and even received applause from Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel.

If the ex-chief formally launches his campaign for governor, his handling of Whitmer’s pandemic policies will likely become a point of debate. His potential primary opponents have been outspoken critics of Whitmer’s response to the virus, contending that she overreached.

“We wrote something like 6,000 tickets. (I) didn’t like it. (I) absolutely didn’t like it,” Craig told reporters on Monday. “But I’m a police chief. I follow the rules. In law enforcement, you’re nonpartisan. You may have political views, but I operate in a framework of what is given to me and so I followed what was passed down from the governor to our mayor.”

Craig was Detroit’s police chief, working in the state’s largest city under Mayor Mike Duggan, until June 1 when he retired.

One of Craig’s potential primary opponents is Garrett Soldano, a Mattawan chiropractor who gained a social media following speaking out against Whitmer’s COVID-19 orders. Asked about Craig’s handling of the COVID-19 orders as chief, Soldano spokesman Chasen Bullock said his candidate “has been fighting against Gov. Whitmer’s excessive lockdowns since day one.”

“Whitmer’s policies are an attack on Michiganders’ livelihoods, and the politicians who enforced her rule are just as guilty,” Bullock said.

Craig himself had COVID-19 in the spring of 2020, and Detroit was among the hardest hit in the country during the initial wave of the virus last year. In past media appearances, he described Whitmer’s COVID-19 orders as oppressive and divisive. […]

Craig eventually made a “unilateral decision” at some point to stop issuing tickets under the orders after seeing a protest in Lansing where people weren’t wearing masks but weren’t ticketed, the former chief has said.

“I’m looking at the news, and I see that there was protests in Lansing,” Craig said. “Some of these protesters were unmasked. I didn’t see one ticket issued. It was at that point that I made the unilateral decision to not issue another ticket.

“Now, I didn’t ask for permission. I just felt strongly it was the right thing to do.”

Craig said he wasn’t “absolutely certain” when the protest that inspired his decision occurred or what the reason for the demonstration in Lansing was. Whitmer issued an order requiring masks in crowded outdoor spaces in July 2020 with multiple rural police departments saying they wouldn’t enforce the policy. At the time, public health experts said Michigan was at a “tipping point” in its fight against COVID-19. […]

By April 17, 2020, the Detroit Police Department posted on Facebook an update on its enforcement, revealing 736 citations had been handed out.

“Since April 4, Detroit Police Officers have checked over 10,631 locations, given 1,614 warnings, issued 736 citations, shutdown over 24 parties and closed 27 businesses to ensure compliance with the governor’s ‘Stay Home, Stay Safe’ Executive Order. #StayHome #StaySafe #SaveLives,” the department’s post said.

The Detroit Police Department posted this tally of COVID-19 enforcement on its Facebook page on April 17, 2020.  

On April 8, 2020, Nessel applauded the Detroit Police Department and the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office, commending “their concerted efforts to enforce Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Stay Home, Stay Safe executive order.” […]

According to Detroit’s Fox 2 WJBK, Craig said at the time, “We want to celebrate the businesses that are opening. We certainly don’t want to be an enforcement arm. But if we come in and we give you a warning, take heed.” […]

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