Off the Chain Opinion
DETROIT -- Only one elevator works at police headquarters. And it only goes up. If you want to come down, you have to ring the desk sergeant who must shamble over and press the down button. Let's pray the sprinkler system works.
The first-floor bathroom has just one roll of toilet paper, so it is recommended that in the spirit of communal cooperation visitors endeavor to use both sides of the Charmin.
It appears that the last time the lobby was mopped at 1300 Beaubien was on the day after the repeal of Prohibition.
Perhaps most dispiriting of all, the office of the Chief of Police is vacant for the third time in two years.
Detroit desperately needs a leader. But what do we have? We've got Mayor Dave Bing holed up in his 11th-floor bunker at the Coleman A. Young Building. We've got former Police Chief Ralph Godbee in the unemployment line after his career went up in flames in a sex scandal. We now know Bing promoted Godbee to chief two years ago even though he knew Godbee may have traded sex for promotion with at least one female subordinate.
With cutbacks to salaries and benefits, police morale is low, especially among the female officers who prefer to work on their feet instead of their backs. The police department is under federal oversight. The city's finances are under state oversight. Crime is a serpent strangling the life out of the city and nearly half the population of Detroit says it wants to move away. Against this backdrop, the police commission has begun a national search for a new chief.
Would anyone seriously want this job, I asked Jerome Warfield, the chairman of the commission who in the current power vacuum has become the de facto mayor of the streets."If you're a real cop, this is the place you want to be," he said. "Crime is high, unemployment is high. The education rate isn't where it's supposed to be. The morale of the department is somewhat low. But you can come here and make a significant difference. Make a culture change in the way we do business. Use innovative ideas and put them to task. This is the beta testing place for those who really care about criminal justice and care about fighting crime."
That is undoubtedly true. But the Detroit Police Department has a well-earned reputation as a hidebound frat house hostile to outside influence. Just ask former-Chief Jerry Oliver who was run out on a rope a decade ago. Warfield believes that is a thing of the past.
"I think what's changed is that people have seen failure," he said. "And what people want right now is success. Including the cops. They could care less."
No matter where the next chief comes from, his job will be Herculean. From the murder rate right down to the bathroom mats.