Who is Ralph Godbee?

n 1991, Ralph Godbee Jr. had a difficult to decision to make.

The Detroit Police department laid him off, and he had to figure out his next steps. He opted to further his education in the law enforcement at Sienna College, a move that turned out to be a prescient one.

Godbee will celebrate two years as chief of police in July and 25 years on the force this month.

"Policing has become a much more cerebral job," Godbee said. "Tactics that were acceptable when I first became an officer no longer are acceptable."

He has held numerous positions within the department, including commander, assistant chief and patrol officer.


Godbee said he never saw himself becoming a high-ranking member of the chief's leadership team, but a stint as the head of then-Mayor Dennis Archer's security detail earned him notice by superiors and he steadily worked his way up the ladder until he was named chief.

Working for the department requires faith in duty and purpose, and Godbee said his background in the clergy helps. He is a pastor at a Detroit church, but he refuses to identify it because he doesn’t want the public to think he plays favorites based on his religious background.

But he said his faith in God has definitely helped him cope with the demanding job.

"That is the only way I could hold this position," the soft-spoken Godbee said. "It keeps you grounded. My faith is how I'm able to see the things I see on a daily basis…and not completely lose it."

Godbee, who is small in stature, but conveys a ‘don't step out of line’ demeanor, said his job is one of the most challenging of its kind in the nation, something President Barack Obama noticed earlier this year during a trip to the state to talk with labor leaders.

"He said, 'Chief, you have a really tough job,'" Godbee recalled. "I told him, ‘Mr. President, you have a really tough job.’ That exchange and to have the president of the United States see the uniform and respect it means so much."

While Godbee calls former chiefs Ike McKinnon and Benny Napoleon mentors, it was former chief Ella Bull-Cummings who elevated him from commander of the 9th Precinct to join her command staff. 

That was his first brush with the business side of running the department and the first of several that followed, giving him the opportunity to see up close that policing was more than just hitting the streets.

"That is what rounded me out," he said. "I learned a lot about what it takes to run a department; the backbone to running a department. Ella Bully-Cummings really is the person who put me on the trajectory to become the chief of police."

Facebook Comments



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here