On his last day in office, disgraced Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick issued a statement urging Detroit residents to get behind his replacement.
“He will need your support because the job of mayor requires making the tough but not always popular decisions in order to advance our city,” Kilpatrick said Thursday of Ken Cockrel Jr., who took over the mayor's office at 12:01 a.m. Thursday.
“Thank you for the honor of serving you. God bless Detroit,” Kilpatrick said.
James Canning, Kilpatrick's spokesman, said the mayor spent the morning “wrapping up a few loose ends” before leaving City Hall at midday.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
“People said their long goodbyes to the mayor days ago,” Canning said. “It's kind of somber. There's been a lot of good work done by many people here.”
Cockrel, who will vacate his role as City Council president, named his new police chief Thursday. James Barren, a former deputy chief with 31 years on the force, will take over for Ella Bully-Cummings, who announced her retirement Sept. 4 after Kilpatrick pleaded guilty to two felonies and no contest to a third.
Cockrel made plain that he does not intend to meddle in police department affairs – a criticism sometimes leveled against Kilpatrick.
“He is the general,” Cockrel said of Barren, 57. “He is the one that is going to be calling the shots.
“I don't see myself as the sort of mayor that wants to be reaching his hands into the inner workings of the police department. We have seen recently where that can lead,” said Cockrel.
Kilpatrick, a Democrat, steps down as part of a plea deal that also is sending him to jail. He admitted lying on the witness stand in a civil case over the firing of two police officers.
The city settled that case and another lawsuit for $8.4 million after Kilpatrick feared that text messages revealing an affair with his chief of staff would become public. The Detroit Free Press published some messages in January, triggering months of political chaos.
Barren, who has a doctoral degree and has been working as a counselor, said he wants to raise morale among officers. He planned to go on patrol Thursday night and “cruise around the city, shake some hands and say hello and see what's going on.”
“I think when you show folks you care, you're there for them, you can turn it around,” Barren said.
Earlier Thursday, a judge eased travel restrictions on Kilpatrick, allowing him to go outside Michigan until Sept. 29.
Kilpatrick's 120-day jail sentence starts Oct. 28.