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Doug Clark: New chief’s somber demeanor understandable

Wednesday afternoon found me at the City Hall of Mirrors where reporters and the gullible gathered on the second-floor terrace to hear Spokane Mayor David Condon make the following announcement:

Frank Straub will be the next police chief.

This revelation came as a shock only to those who have spent the summer hiking in the Alps or wandering deepest Africa.

Everybody else – including my 89-year-old mother – has known for weeks that Straub would get the gig.

Far be it from me to suggest that the fix was in.

But Straub, the former Indianapolis director of public safety, did enter the job hunt at Mayor Condon’s personal request.*

(* Condon didn’t invite me to apply despite all the hints I’ve given the man. Not that I’m bitter about it. Not very much, anyway.)

Straub made every cut until it was down to just him and Daniel Mahoney, the commanding officer of a large Bay Area police station.

If I were Mahoney I’d be plenty cheesed at Condon for all that time wasted.

But why Straub?

Is he one of Condon’s long-lost third cousins?

Could he be the friend of a friend?

Does the mayor owe the man money?

I know. I know. I’ve heard the “official story,” how Condon met Straub months ago at some convention or flash mob.

The point being that Condon was so impressed that he asked Straub to please apply for the police chief’s job.

But what Condon sees in the guy is a mystery to me.

You know how some people ooze so much charisma that they are said to have “star power” or the “it” factor?

This is not the Frank Straub I saw.

I watched the man carefully while trying to avoid heatstroke during the mayor’s outdoor press conference.

Straub maintained this expression of melancholy throughout. He reminded me of someone who had just seen his favorite hunting dog eaten by badgers.

If Straub’s this dour coming in, I wondered, what will he be like once he settles in and he’s armed and I start critiquing his job performance with annoying regularity?

I turned to City Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin, who was standing next to me.

“Uh, does Straub always frown like this?” I asked.

“I hope not,” she said in a concerned tone. “Maybe you can invite him out on a Friday night and loosen him up.”

Yeah. Like that’s going to happen.

I couldn’t help but make mental comparisons to the first time I laid eyes on Anne Kirkpatrick, the last chief.

The woman was so animated and overjoyed I was afraid someone had put crack in her coffee.

Aw, but maybe I didn’t catch Straub at his best.

Maybe there’s a good reason behind the new chief’s hangdog expression.

Maybe it came from the sobering realization that he now must manage a police department where not so long ago 50 cops stood and saluted a convicted felon who had clubbed an unarmed, innocent citizen into mush.

That would suck the air out of anyone’s balloon.

Welcome to Spokane, Frank.

Doug Clark can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or dougc@spokesman.com.

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