Mayor Dave Bing appointed a county sheriff as the city's third police chief in less than a year on Monday, saying his one-time political rival is just the person to help rein in Detroit's high crime rate and lead the department out from under years-long federal oversight.
Wayne County Sheriff Warren Evans, who was among a field of candidates in February's primary to complete the term of former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, replaces James Barren, who was fired Friday after less than a year on the job.
Evans, 60, praised Barren and said he hadn't gone looking for the post as head of Detroit's police force, but said he thought he could make a positive difference.
"There's really no greater honor than to be a part of a city that's moving forward and to be the head of the largest police department in the state of Michigan," Evans said.
Bing said Barren didn't do anything wrong, but that he felt the police department needed a leadership change and that Evans would bring a more proactive approach to fighting crime.
"I thought we had to make a change, quite frankly, because I don't believe that we can continue to do what we've been doing and think that we're going to get some different results," Bing said at a news conference.
"I'm not changing for the sake of change. I'm making this change because it's the right thing to do," the mayor said.
The police department is under consent decrees with the federal government to change how it uses force, detains prisoners and questions witnesses.
Bing said the U.S. attorney in Detroit told him the department wasn't doing a good enough job meeting its federal obligations.
Interim Mayor Ken Cockrel Jr. pulled Barren out of retirement in September to head the police force in the nation's 11th-largest city. He succeeded Ella Bully-Cummings, who announced her retirement after Kilpatrick, who appointed her, pleaded guilty to two felony obstruction charges in a sex-and-misconduct scandal.
Bing, Cockrel and Evans were among the field of mayoral candidates to complete the Kilpatrick's term. Bing defeated Cockrel in a runoff.
Evans had been sheriff since 2003. He was hired by the county as a deputy in 1970. He served as undersheriff from 1987 to 1991 under then-Sheriff Robert Ficano. Evans — like Ficano, Kilpatrick and Gov. Jennifer Granholm — also was part of late Wayne County Executive Ed McNamara's political machine where he ran the county's Community Justice department.
Evans ran a criminal/juvenile justice consulting firm beginning in 1997 and later served for two years as special operations chief in the county prosecutor's office before becoming sheriff.
In recent months, Evans and his former boss, Ficano, have clashed over cuts the county executive has made to the sheriff's department.