In the 2006 Spokane County prosecutor’s race, we lamented the paucity of good choices and issued a tepid endorsement for incumbent Steve Tucker. In this year’s primary, there were better candidates, and we recommended Chris Bugbee. The voters disagreed, so the general election pits Tucker against Frank Malone.
Tucker has more experience as a prosecutor, but it is his actions – or rather inactions – as a manager that have raised concerns in the criminal justice system and in the community at large. During the last race, the high-profile Otto Zehm case was grabbing headlines. This time it’s the fatal shooting of Wayne Scott Creach by a Spokane County sheriff’s deputy.
Before the Zehm case was taken over by federal prosecutors, Tucker’s handling of it was a portrait of indecisiveness and delay. The same appears to be happening with the case involving Creach, a Spokane Valley pastor who was investigating a prowler at his nursery business and ended up dead. Tucker initially said he wanted to make a charging decision before Election Day, but now he says that is unlikely.
Tucker says he is awaiting the results of an unspecified test. He seems to be forever waiting for something.
The lack of trust in law enforcement has become a serious issue in this community. It’s been fueled by the way officer-involved shootings have been handled. A key part of the job as an elected prosecutor is to get out in front of controversies to educate the public on process and procedures. Instead, Tucker has chosen to fade into the background and let speculation and cynicism fill the void. In other major areas, such as making criminal charging decisions in 72 hours and devising a better budgeting process, he has also chosen to hang back and let others take the lead.
We are concerned about Malone’s lack of experience with major crimes, but he does have a solid leadership background in managing a legal practice that focuses on criminal, family and civil law. He is more apt to correctly gauge the sensitive nature of officer-involved shootings and engage in a more active approach to managing the fallout. Malone has suggested that Tucker turn the Creach case over to an outside agency, and given the community’s general distrust with officer-related shootings, that might be the wise thing to do. He also isn’t wedded to the current policies and procedures that mark Tucker’s 12-year reign, so he is more likely to bring about needed changes.
We are endorsing Malone, because the community needs a clean break from the accumulated distrust, which has been abetted by the incumbent’s failure to lead.