This article has been updated to include interviews with members of City Council.
There’s a new chief in town.
The city of Ann Arbor announced Thursday that James White, an assistant police chief with the Detroit Police Department, has been appointed the new Ann Arbor Police Chief. The selection pends approval by the Ann Arbor City Council, which will vote on the recommendation at their meeting Monday.
White will replace John Seto, current chief of the Ann Arbor Police Department, who announced his retirement in May. Seto was appointed chief of police in 2012, and served for 25 years with AAPD. He has since accepted a job with the University as the director of Housing Security.
City Administrator Steve Powers, who is responsible for making the recommendation, wrote in a press release that White’s skill set prepared him well for the job.
“I’m confident that James’ broad management experience and abilities will be an asset to the Ann Arbor Police Department, which has a well-earned reputation for excellence,” he wrote. “James has a keen understanding of law enforcement challenges and opportunities and I’m confident he will serve the Ann Arbor community well.”
If approved as chief, White will have to face the ongoing controversy over the fatal shooting of Ann Arbor resident Aura Rosser a year ago by an AAPD officer. The shooting has prompted multiple protests in the city, one as recently as last week, and prompted calls for change in the department.
The officer was found to have been acting in lawful self-defense by the Washtenaw County prosecutor’s office in January, who chose not to press charges.
On Oct. 4, the city’s Human Rights Commission released a 42-page report on strengthening police-community relations in Ann Arbor specifically citing Rosser’s death and including a number of recommendations for the department.
In an interview Thursday, City Councilmember Kirk Westphal (D-Ward 2) said he was still reflecting on the recommendation, but that White left a good impression during prior opportunities Council had to meet with him.
“He struck me as being very thoughtful and professional, and highly experienced,” he said.
Speaking to some of the current events surrounding the AAPD, namely the HRC’s report, Westphal added that White noted having experience in such situations.
“He expressed having experience collaborating with citizen committees, and look(ing) forward to working with one here, if that’s the direction we go in,” he said.
Incoming City Councilmember Zachary Ackerman (D-Ward 3), a LSA senior, said he thought White was highly qualified for the job. Ackerman will formally assume his position at Monday’s Council meeting.
“I think (White) brings an incredible amount of diverse organizational skills, tactical skills, civil rights knowledge and psychology education,” Ackerman said. “And I think the four of those things, when brought together, will be incredibly valuable to the department.”
City Councilmember Sabra Briere (D-Ward 1) echoed those sentiments, noting that in meetings with Council White had expressed an interest in having a position in the department to foster community relations.
She added that she thought his experiences in Detroit, including operating under the increased scrutiny of an emergency manager while the city was emerging from bankruptcy, would be beneficial in building trust in the community.
White has served in his current position with the Detroit Police Department since February 2013. He began as an officer with the department in 1996, and has also served as deputy chief, commander, lieutenant and sergeant.
The Detroit Police Department said Thursday afternoon that they would not have a statement on White’s selection until Monday.
He received a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Wayne State University and is currently finishing a master’s degree from Central Michigan University in counseling, according to the release.
If approved, White will begin the job on January 11.
Daily Staff Reporter Emma Kinery contributed reporting.