Outgoing Inkster Police Chief Hilton Napoleon, center, speaks to reporters on Friday, July 11, 2014, at Inkster city hall about his decision to resign as Inkster City Manager Richard Marsh Jr., left, and City Councilman Michael Canty look on. / Eric Lawrence/Detroit Free Press
Hilton Napoleon, who has stepped down as Inkster’s chief of police on Thursday, at his desk on Oct. 3, 2013. / Mandi Wright/Detroit Free Press
Inkster’s outgoing police chief says his successor has a tough job ahead.
“Whoever goes in there, they’re going to have their hands full,” said Chief Hilton Napoleon, whose resignation is effective today. “It’s a very difficult position to be in.”
Napoleon, brother of Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon, cited adverse working conditions as well as the senseless killing of a 2-year-old girl earlier this month in the resignation letter he submitted Thursday.
Kamiya French, whose last name is also regularly given as Gross, was shot in the head in an apparent act of retaliation outside an Inkster housing project July 1. The killing, which also left the girl’s father and a 12-year-old family friend injured, has shaken a community that has seen more than its share of violent crimes.
“You just get to the point when they killed that baby, that was it for me,” Napoleon said this morning.
But Napoleon, 60, has been contemplating his departure for some time, saying he had been holding out for the completion of the $7.7-million Inkster Justice Center, a new home for the city’s beleaguered Police Department as well as the 22nd District Court. He said the building is “ninety-nine percent done.”
■ Photo gallery: Vigil for 2-year-old girl killed in Inkster
“I thought, ‘I can’t do this any more under these conditions.’ It wears on you and it’s been wearing on me for a while,” Napoleon said.
Those conditions, according to Napoleon, involve the gutting of the department from 73 officers when he started 3½ years ago to 24 today. Napoleon noted that half of the remaining officers work for $15 an hour and lack benefits.
It’s a miserable formula that can lead to burnout. But the financial crisis that makes it a reality is not an Inkster-only problem, Napoleon said, referencing the appointment of an emergency manager in Lincoln Park and other cities.
To deal with the struggles, Napoleon called in the Michigan State Police last year and had planned to consolidate the Inkster Police Department with the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office.
Napoleon’s tenure has also been marked by dissension in his own department. In an interview last year, he blasted the integrity of some of his officers and questioned their fitness for the job.
Today, he described how his efforts to cut back on unjustified officer overtime for taking phone calls after hours, among other things, had led some to resent him. He said officers also blamed him for things that over which he had no control.
“When you cut off the gravy train, people are going to get upset and distort things,” he said, noting that although he believes he had support, a core group wanted him fired. “I have detractors there that are probably celebrating.”
But Napoleon, who spent 29 years with Detroit Police and was formerly Inkster’s deputy chief, indicated that he never aspired to be chief in Inkster.
“This wasn’t something that I wanted, it’s just something that happened. I weathered the storm until the building is up and when the little baby got killed, murdered, it was just time to go,” he said.
Although Napoleon is unclear on any future career plans, one of the first things he will do after leaving Inkster is “go to Miami and hug my grandkids.”
During a news conference at Inkster city hall today, City Manager Richard Marsh Jr. praised Napoleon’s efforts during his tenure, noting that Napoleon had established great relationships with the administration and the community.
“He has served with desired passion and dedication over the last 3 ½ years,” Marsh said.
City Councilman Michael Canty, who was also at the news conference, said Napoleon had done a good job and should go “with his head up high.”
Lt. Jeffrey Smith will take over as acting chief of the Police Department. Marsh said a national search for a new chief will be launched within the next 30 days. A message seeking comment was left for Smith.