State hires former Kwame ‘henchman’ for police chief job

James TolbertJames Tolbert was deputy police chief in Detroit when he was promoted after allegedly hindering an investigation into the 2003 killing of exotic dancer Tamara “Strawberry” Greene.

He’s also at the center of a lawsuit that claims he and other top brass interfered with the probe in an attempt to stop police from looking deeper into the case immediately following allegations that Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who is now serving 28 years in prison for a racketeering scheme, was involved in the killing.

But that didn’t prevent Lansing, which has been outspokenly critical of Kilpatrick, from hiring Tolbert to become police chief of Flint, a city that is under state-controlled emergency management, like Detroit.

Tolbert started as police chief Monday and told MLive that he never impeded the investigation.

“That’s not the case at all,” he said. “I was in charge of homicide at the time and I totally during the time of the investigation was making sure that we absolutely made that investigation to the fullest.”

Tolbert was selected by the controversial Richard Baird, Snyder’s transformation manager who is paid by private funds and has been the point man for emergency manager appointments. Baird orchestrated the surreptitious hiring of Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr while the governor repeatedly misled the public about the prospect of bankruptcy.

Jamie Fields, a candidate for the Detroit Police Commission, said the state’s failure to properly vet Tolbert is a problem.

“Most progressive cities that hire a new police chief are not only more transparent, they involve the community, whether it be public forums, media, or panel discussions, not only to properly vet the candidate’s backgrounds but to compare various candidate’s policing philosophy,” Fields said. “However, the issue continues to be the governor’s paternalistic usurpation of largely minority cities by substituting his decisions of what is best for the community.”


Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.