Chief Lifted Standards, Drew Flak Imposing Mangan Brought Major Changes To Police Force
People call Terence J. Mangan an ingenious man with a mean streak, a visionary who can’t see his own faults, a disciplinarian who sometimes runs amok.
He’s a quick study, a quick wit and quick to anger.
For the past 11 years, Chief Mangan has imposed his will on the Spokane Police Department, and some would say, the city of Spokane.
When he joins the FBI as a consultant and leadership instructor today during a ceremony in Oregon, the 60-year-old former priest will leave the department and city vastly changed, residents and officials say.
Supporters say Mangan’s demand for a professional force and support of community-oriented policing led Spokane into national prominence in law enforcement.
“Terry Mangan filled a niche that was very important in this city,” former Mayor Jack Geraghty says. “He brought Spokane into the modern age of policing.”
Critics admit Mangan raised department standards to a new level, but say he created an aloof force that thinks it’s better than the citizens it serves.
“The department under Mangan is known for a mentality of bigger guns are better, and the police are justified in using force at just about every turn,” says Rusty Nelson, of the Spokane Peace and Justice Action League.
Mangan says he wants to be remembered for trying to do what was best for the department and the city.
“How will I be remembered? I think that will depend on who you ask,” he says, laughing.
In early 1987, the Police Department was in turmoil, shaken by two years of scandal.
The city had just settled a sexual harassment lawsuit against the department for nearly $200,000. A detective had filed a disability claim after becoming addicted to cocaine on the job. Another group of officers had been disciplined after hiring a stripper for a party.
There were no African-Americans and few other people of color on the force, and charges of racism within the department were prevalent.
Chief Bob Panther had stepped down a few months before, and the force had closed ranks, breeding distrust in the community.
So then-City Manager Terry Novak decided to do something that hadn’t been done in Spokane in more than 100 years: hire a police chief from outside the department.
“It was a time that called for a different style of policing and a commitment to diversity,” Novak says today.
He chose Mangan, who 20 years before was a priest serving as dean of a boys high school in Monterey, Calif.
Always fascinated with police work, Mangan left the priesthood to become an officer with the nearby Seaside Police Department, where he had done volunteer work, and quickly rose through the ranks.
When Novak came calling, Mangan was working as chief of the Bellingham Police Department.
He hadn’t applied for the Spokane job, but he quickly became Novak’s top candidate. “Like cream rising to the surface,” Novak says.
When Mangan walked into Spokane’s Public Safety Building on his first day, he found a department behind the times in attitude and resources.
There was no formal protocol for investigating complaints against officers or plan for recruiting minorities.
There was no canine unit, and only a loosely organized SWAT team.
Officers stored their shaving kits and clean shirts in old Army surplus lockers crammed into a gloomy basement. Most patrol officers still were carrying six-shot revolvers, while criminals had upgraded to semiautomatics. Communications were atrocious.
“You would be listening to a pursuit on the radio, and it would leave the air because there weren’t enough repeaters,” Mangan says. He made modernizing the department his top priority, then went out and got the money to do it.
Mangan lobbied the City Council for cash to buy new equipment, hire more officers and provide training. He courted business groups and social clubs for donations. He started applying for state and federal grants.
“I attended 350 speaking engagements during the first year,” Mangan says. “I never turned down an invitation.”
In one success story, he says he cajoled the Kiwanis Club into forking over enough money to buy surplus motorcycles from the Sheriff’s Department for a traffic squad.
The department is now one of the best-equipped in the state and known across the world for its community-oriented policing programs, says Lt. Jerry Oien, who recently retired from the Police Department.
When Mangan came to Spokane, there were no police substations in neighborhoods. Now there are 10 COP shops and 10 neighborhood patrol units, staffed by volunteers.
“He just made giant strides in that regard,” says Oien, who headed up the department’s major crimes unit.
Recently, authorities from Australia traveled to Spokane to study community policing.
Mangan’s pursuit of money, personnel and training never wavered. During his tenure, the department’s budget nearly doubled, from $15.8 million to almost $30 million. The number of officers and civilian employees jumped 27 percent, to 409 today.
“He needs to be given credit for all the hard work he’s put in,” says Bevan Maxey, a Spokane attorney who has battled Mangan on civil rights issues. “He has done a lot to modernize the department.”
‘Shrewd, scheming’ Some say Mangan bullied his way to prominence, pushing his own agenda and the interest of his staff while ignoring the plights of other city departments.
Others accused him of exaggerating problems to get more money for police.
His warnings in 1989 that Southern California street gangs were coming to town provoked outrage among many in Spokane’s African-American community, who accused him of painting all blacks as gang members.
“He is a shrewd, scheming autocrat who refuses the advice of concerned citizens, educators and even members of his own police force on matters that will affect them and their children long after he has moved on to fresh territory,” teacher Pamela Ashe wrote in a Spokesman-Review column shortly after Mangan issued his gang warnings.
Over the years, his hiring practices were called into question, as were his frequent travels to give guest lectures across the country. In 1995, he spent 105 of 252 work days on the road, drawing complaints from inside his department.
Mangan was criticized for considering himself above the law, and using profanity got him into trouble on at least two occasions.
In July 1994, he pulled over a teenager who had flipped him off while driving through the Valley. Mangan berated the 19-year-old man in front of his girlfriend. The chief later suspended himself for two days for using “inappropriate and offensive language.”
In March 1996, three men parked on a public road outside Mangan’s rural house in the Valley. The men were part of a club that plays hide-and-seek using citizens-band radios, but Mangan thought they were up to no good.
Instead of calling 911, the chief grabbed his shotgun and went outside.
The profanity-laced confrontation, which included Mangan pointing the gun at the men, prompted two investigations into his conduct and ultimately cost him four days’ pay.
The chief said later he feared for his family’s safety because a woman he had helped send to prison several years before had been released and moved to the Spokane area about the time of the confrontation.
People say Mangan is fiercely loyal to those who serve him, sometimes blindly rushing to their defense.
In January 1990, Mangan issued a policy withholding the identities of police officers who were investigated for misconduct. He said he would only release their names if they were charged with a crime or their conduct was “notorious.”
Later that year, Mangan clashed with Mothers Against Drunk Driving after he supported a sergeant who didn’t arrest a suspected drunken driver when he learned she was the wife of the assistant police chief.
Mangan said his officers have discretion to make such calls in the field, even though his department boasted of having a “zero tolerance” policy on drunken driving.
He has consistently fought against citizen review boards given the power to investigate complaints against his officers.
“He has always remained extremely loyal to his law enforcement officers, even in the face of evidence to the contrary,” Maxey says.
That has endeared Mangan to the officers of the SPD, but alienated some citizens, including many African-Americans, says Maxey, who is black.
“If you can’t acknowledge that something exists, you can’t change it,” Maxey says.
Mangan, who marched with Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, Ala., says he’s proud of his efforts to diversify the force and reach out to the community.
There are nine people of color and nearly 30 women on the force, the latter a significant increase. One of the first police academy classes to graduate under Mangan had 11 people of color out of 14 students. That class achieved the highest average grade ever on the required criminal law test.
But the Rev. Happy Watkins, a member of the local chapter of the NAACP, marched into Mangan’s office on more than one occasion to complain about police officers harassing young black men under the guise of cracking down on gangs.
“We had a lot of disagreements over the years, but there was always an open door,” Watkins says. “At least we could talk to him.”
Former City Manager Roger Crum agreed.
“There were times when he said or did something we all wish he hadn’t,” says Crum, who worked with Mangan for nine years.
“But at the time and place he was brought in, he was just what Spokane needed.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo Graphic: The chief’s career