Spokane Mayor David Condon announced today that Interim Police Chief Scott Stephens is no longer being considered a candidate for chief and that he will not accept applications from within department ranks.
“I want someone who has a full understanding of a metro-policing model,” Condon said. “I think this is a good time to re-launch the search.”
He noted that Stephens has worked his entire career in Spokane. Although he wouldn’t say directly, Condon indicated that he asked Stephens to withdraw from consideration.
“He’s been a great team member,” Condon said of Stephens, who did not attend the news conference. “But ultimately, it was my decision.”
Asked if Stephens lacked the qualifications, based on Condon’s search criteria, he replied: “On that key part, yes.”
Stephens could not immediately be reached for comment.
Condon said he recently met with Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, who earlier advocated consolidating the two police agencies.
While Condon said the city will have a police chief, he is open to joining forces, in such things as property crimes, to best use the resources in tough economic times.
Although he didn’t identify who had applied for police chief, Condon said the search may involve convincing an existing chief from somewhere else to come to Spokane. He set a deadline of June 30 for applications.
“I want to make sure Spokane has the best person to choose from,” he said.
During his campaign, Condon said his top priority was restoring the citizens’ trust in police department following the scandal surrounding the Otto Zehm investigation.
He acknowledged that the search may have been hindered by the ongoing, criminal federal investigation into officers’ actions in the 2006 Zehm confrontation. The city also faces a potential civil review by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Condon said he continues to support that idea of a department-wide, federal “pattern and practice” review, which was requested by former Mayor Mary Verner, but said that he’s not heard anything from federal officials.
“I agree we need to make progress so we can attract a top notch police chief,” he said. Stephens “would have been good. But when I look at the type of police chief and the major initiatives we want to implement, I owe it to the citizens to go find that person.”