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DETROIT — In the wake of unrest in Ferguson, Mo., Detroit's police chief praised his department's community relations efforts and defended its use of paramilitary equipment when facing potentially violent suspects.

The tensions in Ferguson have sparked a debate about what critics say is the growing militarization of local police departments and the insensitivity of some police to residents. Some activists in Detroit have suggested "that Detroit could be the next Ferguson," said Police Chief James Craig, a notion that he called "appalling."

"That's so far from the truth," Craig said.

"Our community is standing with us ... applauding the work we're doing today," he said.

On Wednesday, Detroit police shot a suspect in the arm, injuring him, leading some at the scene to refer to Ferguson, where a teenager was shot dead by police Aug. 9. Over the past week, there have been three protests in the area of the shooting around Nottingham and Berkshire that were organized by the group BAMN (By Any Means Necessary). About 80 to 100 people attended a rally Saturday, said activist Leanna Mulholland.

The day before the Ferguson shooting, the U.S. Department of Justice and the city asked a judge to end federal oversight of the Detroit Police Department over police abuse. Ron Scott of the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality is urging the Justice Department not to lift its 11-year consent decree.

In June, the American Civil Liberties Union released a report on the growing militarization of police departments across the U.S.; one example cited was the 2010 death in Detroit of 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley Jones, killed accidentally by a Detroit police officer during a SWAT raid that activists said was overzealous.

Activists have also criticized Detroit police for relying on paramilitary tactics during drug raids and other situations.

But Craig said Monday that in the "nine large-scale operations in the city of Detroit in the 13 months" during his tenure, the department has received only one complaint of excessive force.

"It illustrates the Detroit Police Department is a constitutional police department," he said.

Craig also defended his department's use of SWAT, SRT (special reaction team) and armored vehicles when dealing with drug raids, a shooter or barricaded suspect. Activists have said that police are relying too much on these teams and tools.

But Craig said that when police are dealing with "fortified locations ... where there are heavy armaments, who better to send inside that location to execute a search warrant other than special response teams of SWAT units? We're not suggesting that we have tanks driving through neighborhoods. ... But when we have to address an active shooter situation or barricaded suspect, I think the community would applaud us coming in with an armored vehicle, not only to keep our officers safe, but to keep our community safe."

In Ferguson, Brown's death led to protests that were met by a police reaction that critics said relied too much on militarized equipment and tactics.

Craig has worked in the police departments in Los Angeles and Cincinnati, which experienced rioting in 1992 and 2001. Craig was police chief in Cincinnati from 2011-13. He said the tensions in those areas — and in Detroit in 1967 — came about because police didn't have good relations with communities.

"The underlying issue is no relationship between a police department and that community," he said.

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