PORTLAND — Police Chief James C. Craig on Tuesday was named chief of the Cincinnati Police Department.

Assistant Police Chief Michael Sauschuck will succeed Craig on an interim basis.

Craig’s appointment was announced Tuesday morning in Cincinnati. He discussed his decision to accept the job in a press conference Tuesday afternoon at Portland City Hall.

“Cincinnati is like home,” Craig said. “It has a little Detroit, a little Los Angeles and a little Portland a wrapped up in one nice city. So, I feel like I’m going home.”

Craig grew up in Detroit, about 200 miles from Cincinnati. He was a police commander in Los Angeles before he became Portland’s police chief in May 2009.

Cincinnati officials made the announcement of Craig’s selection on the city website Tuesday morning. They said City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. chose Craig over more than 40 other applicants to lead the department of more than 1,000 sworn personnel.

Craig said he will be sworn in to his new job on Aug. 2. He did not know when his last working day in Portland will be.

Portland City Hall spokeswoman Nicole Clegg said incoming City Manager Mark Rees, who starts work in late July, will establish a procedure for filling the police chief job.

She said Sauschuck will serve as interim chief until a permanent replacement is found.

Craig said he plans to meet with Rees and Acting City Manager Pat Finnegan to convince them to hire a new chief from within Portland’s ranks.

“I’m fairly certain, when you look at the great work of my assistant chief and the commander, two top individuals, either one could run this organization and take it to the next level,” Craig said.

Craig has been Portland’s top cop for two years and is the first black person to hold the position. 

He rejected the suggestion that some residents may feel slighted or betrayed by his relatively short tenure. “My commitment (to Portland) was real,” Craig said.

Craig was scheduled to meet with Peaks Island residents on Wednesday night, but said he would not be able to attend that meeting.

He will be the first Cincinnati chief hired from outside of the ranks of that city’s department. He will also be the city’s first black police chief, he said.

“Craig is a stand-out candidate,” Dohoney said in a written statement.

In Portland, a city of about 65,000 people, Craig has led a department of 215 sworn officers. Dohoney cited Craig’s work in strengthening community policing as one reason why he was chosen for the job in Cincinnati, which has a population of about 296,000.

Another reason, Dohoney said, was Craig’s implementation of CompStat, a data-driven crime-reduction strategy that has led to a 10 percent reduction in violent crime and a 1 percent reduction in property crime.

“When I looked at his wide-ranging and successful experience as a front-line commander, his executive management skills, and proven commitment to partnership and community building, I was confident choosing him as chief,” Dohoney said.

“He has a track record of using the latest technologies and police practices that will help meet Cincinnati’s complex challenges,” Dohoney added.  “And he will bring his drive for results to better the department and the community.”

While in Portland, Craig also advocated for better policies for dealing with mentally ill individuals and sought to improve the department’s relationship with the immigrant community.

Craig was previously a commanding officer in the Los Angeles Police Department, where he oversaw policing at large sports events and entertainment industry award ceremonies.

Craig said he would like to see several of his initiatives continue in his absence, most notably the department’s youth outreach, community advisory board, the senior lead officer program and community policing.

He also said a recently established neighborhood prosecutor position is changing the fabric of some of the city’s worst neighborhoods, and said the department has made strides in addressing crime in the Old Port.

When asked if he feels he is leaving behind any unfinished business behind in Portland, Craig joked that he never got over his fear of boats.

He said he enjoyed his time in Portland, especially the time spent with the men and women of the Police Department. But he said he is excited to fulfill what he said was a career-long goal of leading a big-city police force.

“I see this as my last stop,” Craig said of his new post. “I’m excited, make no mistake, but it’s hard.”

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @randybillings.

Sidebar Elements

Portland Police Chief James C. Craig places a Cincinnati Reds baseball hat on the podium before the start of a press conference on Tuesday about his decision to take a job as top cop in the Ohio city.

James Craig speaks at Portland City Hall on May 1, 2009, after being sworn in as the city’s police chief.

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