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Mayor picks Kirkpatrick for Spokane police chief

Spokane Mayor Dennis Hession announces the nomination of Anne Kirkpatrick, right, as police chief at a City Hall press conference. 
 (Brian Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
Spokane Mayor Dennis Hession announces the nomination of Anne Kirkpatrick, right, as police chief at a City Hall press conference. (Brian Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

Anne E. Kirkpatrick, the woman who will likely become Spokane’s next police chief, wasted no time Thursday making her presence known.

The 46-year-old Federal Way chief spent the day meeting city leaders, house hunting and familiarizing herself with the city. Today she’s attending the all-city employees meeting along with the rest of the Police Department, before returning to Western Washington to begin making preparations for her move to Spokane.

“I love Spokane,” Kirkpatrick said. “I love this Police Department. I think I’m a fit, and I think it’s a great city and it’s a very exciting time to come and be a part of it.”

Mayor Dennis Hession announced Kirkpatrick’s selection Thursday morning. He anticipates Kirkpatrick’s start date to be sometime in September.

“We’re hiring her for her strong leadership and her outstanding community presence,” Hession said. “We expect her to put her personal mark on this department, ensure a positive direction that both incorporates the community’s concerns and message and respects the quality of our police force.”

The new chief will replace Roger Bragdon, who retired earlier this year. Kirkpatrick would become the first woman to lead the Spokane Police Department if, as expected, she wins City Council confirmation. “I think she’s a good choice,” said Council President Joe Shogan. Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin agreed.

But questions still remain. Councilman Al French took issue with the mayor’s selection, saying Kirkpatrick appears to be more interested in building her career than in making Spokane her home.

“It’s just a matter of time until there’s a better job,” he said, adding he preferred Linda Pierce of the Seattle Police Department, another finalist, because she indicated she wanted to make Spokane her home.

Councilman Brad Stark was critical of the lack of information from the mayor’s office, saying he learned about Hession’s decision by reading it on the Internet.

A confirmation vote is tentatively set for July 31, although the council could move the vote to as early as Monday.

Kirkpatrick’s selection for Spokane’s top cop job comes at a time when the department is embroiled in controversies, including officers’ fatal struggle with Otto Zehm and the investigation of a sex scandal in which detectives told a firefighter to delete digital images of his sexual encounter with a 16-year-old girl in a city firehouse.

Hession ordered an external review of those cases earlier this week.

“I certainly support the mayor’s decision in seeking an outside review,” Kirkpatrick said. “That is the beginning for healing, correcting and leading for the future. So whatever the result of that review is, I’m prepared to lead through it.”

But when Kirkpatrick was asked whether she had any experience with citizen review panels, her reply was: “I do not. I have never been asked to have a citizen review panel, and I think it’s because I’ve shown myself to be accountable in my own leadership.”

People who know Kirkpatrick say her reputation speaks for itself.

Annette Spicuzza, a longtime friend and colleague of Kirkpatrick’s, said that the Federal Way chief is a good fit for Spokane.

“Knowing what I know of Spokane and their issues, they couldn’t have gotten a better chief,” said Spicuzza, who’s now chief of the 51-officer police department at the University of California at Davis.

“She doesn’t shrink from controversy,” said another longtime colleague, Sumner Police Chief Colleen Wilson. If change is needed at the Spokane department, she said, “I think she’s the perfect vehicle for change.”

During last week’s forums where residents posed questions to all four candidates, Kirkpatrick repeatedly said the biggest challenge would be the department’s budget problems. But when asked a similar question on Thursday, she said it would be getting used to media attention and letting her Southern roots come out by referring to group as “you all.” She wouldn’t elaborate on any issues she planned to tackle within the Police Department.

“I don’t anticipate a challenge that is not overcomeable,” Kirkpatrick said. “I need to first come in and see how we are doing business before any changes are made or if any will be made.”

In addition to approval from some city council members, the Spokane Police Guild was also pleased with Hession’s pick.

“We feel Chief Kirkpatrick was the best candidate and are excited to have her join us,” said Jeff Harvey, second vice president of the guild, which represents all officers from the rank of sergeant down. “Her fresh perspective will be good for the citizens and the department. We look forward to working with her in serving Spokane.”

Kirkpatrick got her start in law enforcement with the 2,000-member Memphis Police Department in Tennessee. She later relocated to the Northwest to attend law school, before becoming chief of the Ellensburg Police Department and then moving to the Federal Way post. She also taught at Green River Community College in Western Washington. She also holds degrees in business administration and counseling.

Of the 43 applicants from 15 states for the job, the city narrowed the field to five finalists, one of whom withdrew from consideration. The remaining four, including an internal candidate, underwent three days of interviews and public forums last week.

The other finalists were:

“ Pierce, an assistant Seattle police chief and seasoned field commander currently overseeing the Seattle Police Department’s criminal investigations bureau.

“ Rochester, Minn., Police Chief Roger Peterson, an amateur hockey player who spent his career with the Rochester Police Department, mostly in the investigations division.

“ And, Deputy Chief Bruce Roberts, who has spent his entire law enforcement career with the Spokane Police Department. He was among the large pool of rookies hired by the department in preparations for Expo ‘74 and has steadily worked his way up the ranks.

Yvonne Lopez-Morton, a member of the police chief search committee appointed by the mayor, said she thought Kirkpatrick was a great choice for the cop job.

But “what’s really nice is Deputy Chief Roberts will be staying with us,” Lopez-Morton said.

Roberts told Lopez-Morton he thinks that’s a “two-for.”

“I look forward to working with her,” Roberts said.

Sheri Barnard, a former Spokane mayor and a member of Spokane Women’s Coalition, said the mayor’s decision to suggest Kirkpatrick for the appointment was a positive step, even though she had urged Hession to choose Pierce.

“I’m very proud of Mayor Hession for making a tough decision,” Barnard said. “What I hope for the Police Department is that they are open and supportive.”

Kathryn Graham, a co-chairwoman of the Spokane Women’s Coalition, said she’s thrilled with the mayor’s choice.

“With a woman police chief, there wouldn’t have been the problems with the firehouse scandal,” said Graham, who participated in a protest in February after learning that detectives had deleted photos of the 16-year-old girl. “I think the mayor made a wise choice. I think the people were ready for it.”

Kirkpatrick was the favorite among the dozens of Spokane residents who sent e-mails to a dedicated account established by the city for citizen reaction to the chief candidates.

“I plan to be the citizens’ number one champion,” Kirkpatrick said, “as well as the Police Department’s number one champion.”


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