James White, assistant police chief with the Detroit Police Department, has declined his appointment as the new chief of police for the Ann Arbor Police Department in favor of staying in Detroit.
White sent his decision to Council via e-mail Sunday night, according to Lisa Wondrash, communications director for the city.
Wondrash said city staff have not yet identified a timeline or process for filling the vacancy.
Ann Arbor City Council voted unanimously in favor of hiring White at a November meeting, based on a recommendation from now-former City Administrator Steve Powers, who chose White over two other finalists. He was slated to begin the position on Jan. 11, 2016.
“Thank you for having the confidence in me as the person to lead Ann Arbor’s Police Department,” White wrote in the e-mail to Council, according to the Ann Arbor News. “I am honored by the professionalism extended to me by the city and members of your team. Since it was announced that I was selected by Ann Arbor to lead the police department, I have been approached by many leaders of the city of Detroit expressing their desire to have me remain in my current position. The outpouring of support has been deeply humbling.”
At the time of his appointment, Council members and Powers cited White’s long tenure of service, civil rights knowledge and experience working with citizen commissions as reasons for his selection.
Councilmember Zachary Ackerman (D-Ward 3), an LSA senior, said in an interview Tuesday that the decision was surprising and an unfortunate loss for the city.
“This came as a disappointment for all of us, but Assistant Chief White is incredibly competent and qualified and will be an incredible asset for Detroit,” Ackerman said. “I am sure that the city administrators will find someone competent, excellent, and nationally competitive who is a fit for our community and what it needs.”
The other two finalists for the AAPD chief position were Rob Severance, deputy city manager and police chief in Cleburne, Texas, and AAPD Deputy Chief Jim Baird, a 22-year veteran of the AAPD who has been interim chief since former Chief John Seto retired in July.
Both Baird and AAPD spokesperson Renee Bush did not respond to requests for comment.
White told the Ann Arbor News that his reasons for turning down the position were addressed in his e-mail, and were not connected to current efforts to reform the AAPD. Given his 19-year tenure with the Detroit Police Department, he said he thought it made sense for him both professionally and personally to finish out his career where it began.
“I just found it’s best for me and my family,” he said.