Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Bully-Cummings, Ella

Ella Bully-Cummings is a former Detroit Chief of Police, the first woman to hold the position. Born in 1957 in Japan to an African American father and Japanese mother, she moved to Detroit when she was just a child and attended school in the city. She supported her family by working part time jobs and encountered a female police officer during a time when this was uncommon. That stuck with her, and Bully-Cummings joined the Detroit Police Academy in 1977 at the age of 19.

While on the police force, Bully-Cummings received her bachelor’s degree from Madonna University and her juris doctor degree from Michigan State University’s College of Law. For a brief period, she retired from the police force, pursuing the practice of law at Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone. She returned to the force during Kwame Kilpatrick’s administration in 2002 as the first female assistant chief. With Chief Jerry Oliver’s resignation in 2003, she was named the city’s first female police chief in an interim capacity, becoming permanent chief of police the following year.

Bully-Cummings announced her retirement from the Detroit Police Department on September 4, 2008, shortly after Mayor Kilpatrick announced his resignation. Bully-Cummings served on the police force through times of hardship for both the Detroit Police and City of Detroit itself. Her first year as chief of police saw a reduction in violent crime, but her time as chief was not without scandal.