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Spokane police lieutenant cited for reckless driving in March

A Spokane police lieutenant is facing an internal investigation after he was cited by the Washington State Patrol in March for reckless driving during an apparent race on the freeway.

Lt. Matthew J. Cowles was clocked in his personal Corvette traveling close to 90 miles per hour in tandem with another driver around 2 p.m. on March 8, according to a report prepared by a WSP trooper.

Cowles, 38, and Thomas Galloway, 56, appeared to be “comparing speeds or racing,” according to the trooper, who pulled both drivers over near the Appleway Boulevard exit on Interstate 90. The trooper wrote that Cowles apologized repeatedly once he was stopped “but said he only got on it a little bit” while Galloway “got on it all the way” in apparent reference to the gas pedal, according to the report.

Cowles asked the trooper how he clocked his speed, and the trooper replied that it was by radar, according to the report. The trooper said he was unsure which of the drivers he may have clocked because they were so close together.

When the trooper handed Cowles his ticket, the police lieutenant “said he felt he was being unfairly singled out and that Galloway was the primary instigator in this,” according to the report. Cowles said he disagreed with the ticket but was apologetic, the trooper wrote. At no point in the report does the trooper mention Cowles identifying himself as a police officer.

Spokane police spokeswoman Monique Cotton confirmed Friday the citation was issued and that an internal affairs investigation had been launched by Chief Frank Straub. Cowles, a former firearms instructor at the Spokane police firing range, was recently promoted to lieutenant and placed in charge of police reserves.

Cowles and prosecutors entered into an agreement, signed by District Court Judge Gregory Tripp in July, that defers his prosecution on the reckless driving charge for six months, as long as he commits no new criminal traffic violations. Prosecutors typically dismiss charges in similar cases as long as the conditions of the order are met. Cowles paid a $75 fee in order to continue the case, according to court records.

The trooper cited Cowles for reckless driving after watching the two cars “closing the distance to traffic ahead of them rapidly” before slowing down just before they were pulled over, according to his report. Reckless driving is a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine. Cowles has no other listed criminal history.

Galloway’s case also was suspended, for a year, according to jail records. In addition to the $75 fee, he was ordered to complete 16 hours of community service. Galloway also has no other listed criminal history.

Cowles received commendations in 2003 for dealing with a suicidal subject, according to news reports.

Attempts to seek comment from Cowles, his attorney and the Spokane Police Guild were unsuccessful.

The lieutenant is not related to the Cowles family that publishes The Spokesman-Review.

The police department notifies the public when an employee is arrested or placed on administrative leave, Cotton said. In Cowles’ case, neither of those actions occurred.

“It has been fully adjudicated,” Cotton said of the matter, and any discipline would be pending the outcome of the internal affairs investigation.

Police sent out a news release when Mike Russo, an officer, was arrested in March for drunken driving. He was placed on administrative leave pending an internal affairs investigation. According to court records, Russo was given a suspended yearlong sentence in June and paid fines.