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Mayor takes chief search to Indiana

Controversial Indianapolis safety director approached

Frank Straub, public safety director of Indianapolis, has applied for the police chief job in Spokane. He has acknowledged that he’s been a lightning rod for criticism in Indianapolis.
Frank Straub, public safety director of Indianapolis, has applied for the police chief job in Spokane. He has acknowledged that he’s been a lightning rod for criticism in Indianapolis.

The embattled top law enforcement official in Indianapolis will be among those considered for Spokane’s next chief of police.

Mayor David Condon confirmed to The Spokesman-Review that he asked Indianapolis Public Safety Director Frank Straub to apply for the opening here, and Straub has told Indianapolis media outlets that he’s taken Condon up on the offer. The two met during Condon’s recent visit to Indianapolis, where the mayor met with government officials to learn more about their metro model of policing, which he’s exploring as a potential option for Spokane.

Straub, who will leave his current post in August following strained relations with the police union and others in the Indianapolis law enforcement community, is among 13 applicants for the Spokane job. The application deadline was Saturday, and the city will continue to accept any applications that might arrive with postmarks before July 1.

Straub did not return a call requesting comment on his decision to apply for the Spokane post.

But in an interview with Indianapolis news station RTVT6, Straub said he applied after being asked by Condon to lead the Spokane Police Department.

“I’ve probably pushed the envelope as far as I can push it. I’m proud of our accomplishments,” Straub told the TV station when talking about his tenure in Indiana’s largest city. “Have I been a lightning rod? Absolutely. I am not going to deny that for a minute.”

Under a metro law enforcement model, city and county police forces across a specific region are blended to function as a single agency.

Straub is a police reform advocate who was hired in Indianapolis in January 2010 after serving as public safety commissioner in White Plains, N.Y., since 2002. He previously served as deputy commissioner of training for the New York Police Department and was a special agent with the U.S. Department of Justice.

His 2  1/2-page resignation letter praises changes he’s helped implement at the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, such as a national public safety model that incorporates police, fire, medical services, homeland security and animal care. He announced his resignation in April ahead of an expected vote of no confidence from the Indianapolis City-County Council, but reportedly agreed to stay on until August to help choose his replacement.

The center of his agenda in Indianapolis, according to the Indianapolis Star newspaper, was police reform. It was met with persistent resistance from the rank and file.

The newspaper described a strained working atmosphere similar to how some have described former Spokane police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick’s tenure here: promises of reform accompanied by high-profile disciplinary actions, which often were overturned in court, resulting in back pay and legal settlements with the officers involved, and a worsening of the already tumultuous relationship between Kirkpatrick and the Spokane Police Guild. By the time Kirkpatrick left, she and Guild leadership were not on speaking terms.

Straub’s resignation also came after the Indianapolis police chief, who works under Straub, resigned after a crucial piece of evidence in a trial – the blood of an on-duty officer accused of being drunk when he caused a crash – was misplaced. Straub admited he’s not easy to work for, according to the newspaper. He’s under scrutiny from the Indianapolis police union and was targeted with a call for resignation by a group of former Indianapolis police chiefs and a former sheriff. That call came after Straub said the department “had been scandal-plagued for decades,” the newspaper reported.

Marlene Feist, spokeswoman for the city of Spokane, said finalists are expected to be named later this month and will be brought to Spokane for a series of interviews with various groups.

Staff writer Jonathan Brunt contributed to this report.

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