Warren Evans has resigned as Detroit police chief, about a year after he was hired by Mayor Dave Bing.
In a news conference Wednesday, reporters asked Bing the big question on everyone’s mind: Why?
“It’s a combination of a lot of things that we’ve been getting feedback on, both internal and external, over a period of time,” Bing said.
“We didn’t want to make a knee-jerk decision. So, [Deputy Mayor Saul Green and I talked about it quite a bit, and we finally made a decison last evening to make the change,” he said.
“I’ve supported Warren, and do think Warren made a positive impact on the police department. But, I think he was compromised in some of the decisions that he’s made that will lead him not to be able to lead his troops going down the road,” Bing said.
“I want to make sure we have the right person in that position, from a leadership standpoint. And, that person is Ralph Godbee,” he said.
Assistant Chief Ralph Godbee will serve as interim chief until a replacement for Evans is found.
”It’s a very difficult time for me. Last night when I went to sleep, I was Assistant Chief of Police. Today, when I wake up, I’m Interium Chief of Police,” Godbee said.
Bing appointed Evans to the post last July to replace James Barren, who was fired after less than a year on the job. At the time, Evans was the city’s third police chief in less than a year.
The resignation came hours before a Detroit TV station was to report on a video produced to promote a reality show idea starring Evans and called “The Chief.”
A clip of the video, posted on WXYZ’ TVs website, appeared to have been filmed during winter and shows Evans, who came into the Detroit job with a swagger and reputation for being tough on crime, taking part in arrests.
“It’s my job to keep the city safe. I’ll do whatever it takes,” Evans said in the clip.
“I don’t think Evans wanted that thing to be seen by anybody,” said John Bennett, who runs DetroitUncovered.com and has seen the clip.
“Bing knew about it. When you see it, you have a good idea as to why I believe and the mayor believes it’s so appalling,” Bennett said.
Councilman Kwame Kenyatta said he thinks the video “may have been the last straw” for Evans.
“Is it a resignation?” Kenyatta asked. “That’s what they always call it. I think you had this coming with the public reprimand,” he said.
There were rumors earlier this summer that Warren Evans was not long for the job. This, after the death of 7-year old Allayanah Stanley Jones during a police raid on the city’s east side.
Bing publicly reprimanded Warren after the police department’s handling of the May 16 raid on a Detroit family’s home. The raid was documented by a camera crew for A&E’s reality television show “The First 48.”
Ron Scott is a spokesperson for the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality. He tells WWJ he thinks there’s a connection between Evans’s departure, and the furor following the youngster’s death.
“I think, probably, the mayor was waiting for a time when things would be tensions would not be as high,” Scott said. “It’s not surprising, given the fact that there’s been a growing enmity with the citizens and also the police department,” he said.
Calling for more cooperation between police and the citizens of Detroit, Scott said he’s hoping the relationship can begin anew under a new police chief.
Detroit City Council President Charles Pugh said he was shocked when he heard of Evans’ resignation.
“He was just here at the city council table giving an update on a consent degree and the federal monitor was lauding Chief Evans for being an excellent example of what a police chief should be,” Pugh said.
“Warren Evans is an honest, decent man who served his community for a very long time,” he said. ”I was looking forward to the leadership that he showed as Wayne County Sheriff, to bring that to the Detroit Police Department,” Pugh said.
Pugh said he thought Evans was doing an excellent job, and there were lots of officers who were encouraged by his active involvement and police work.
“He wasn’t just giving orders from police headquarters, but he was actually out there on the street patrolling and arresting people himself,” he said.
Evans spent most of his career with the Wayne County Sheriff’s office. He started as a deputy sheriff in 1970, and has held every post in that department.
Mohamed Okdie, who has been a member of the Detroit Police Commission for five years, said that the best Detroit police chiefs have been with the department for some time.
“As a sheriff, I think he did a tremendous job,” Okdie said.”But, as a person not trained in law enforcement, and not coming up from the ranks of the police department itself, I don’t think he was ever equipped to be a police chief,” Okdie said.
Under Evans, the Detroit police department used data and reports to target high crime areas. Drug seizures have been up, while the number homicides is down year over year.
(Copyright 2010 WWJ. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report)