Frank Straub was sworn in Monday as Spokane’s new police chief.
Public officials gathered to witness the ceremony, which came a week after he began work in his new job.
Spokane Mayor David Condon called his choice of Straub one of the most important decisions he’ll make during his tenure in office.
“We’re excited about what Frank Straub brings today. He is a strong leader: We know that and I’ve already seen some of this demonstrated in the work we’ve seen already in the past week,” Condon said.
Although Condon previously said Straub would first hold the title of law enforcement director until he completed a nine-week online course beginning in January, the city has decided Straub can be called chief of police immediately based on state law, city spokeswoman Marlene Feist said.
Straub has a lengthy career in law enforcement but has not attended a police officer’s training course that is recognized by Washington. The state Criminal Justice Training Commission granted Straub a waiver if he completes the nine-week course.
Feist said Straub is on track to fulfill the requirements to become police chief.
Straub explained he has completed many requirements, including a polygraph test, a first aid refresher, a psychological evaluation and firearms exam. The state commission has accepted his basic law enforcement training, so when he arrived to Monday’s ceremony he was sporting a police uniform with badge No. 1157.
Straub said he hopes to meet community members in time. He’s attended two police roll call meetings to get to know officers.
Straub likenend the process of easing into his new role to his past as a marathon runner.
“This is a marathon. The whole idea is not to do everything in one or two weeks. You do this in a methodical way that makes sense to everybody,” he said.
Straub called his new job a “community effort” and said he hopes to form relationships with residents, whether through COPS shops or neighborhood organizations.
“My goal and the goal of the command staff is to make this the best midsized police department in the country,” he added.
The police department, Straub said, is built with peacekeepers, not law enforcers. He said the city has to be careful that past incidents do not define the department as it moves forward, referring to the death of 36-year-old Otto Zehm in 2006 after a violent confrontation with police. Former Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. was convicted last November of using excessive force against Zehm.
“At some point we’ll have to say it happened, it was a horrific experience that should not have happened, but now we all have to move on,” Straub said.
Based on community feedback, Condon said the police department will work toward greater resident engagement and build a force that stands behind Straub.
“In the end of the day, that’s what we’re looking for,” Condon said. “We’re looking for a safe community.”
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