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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane police force hires fraud investigator

A fraud investigator from the federal public defender’s office has joined the Spokane Police Department to focus on improving the city’s seizures of drug assets, implementing new laws legalizing marijuana and updating records management.

Tim Schwering, 40, will serve as deputy director of tactical and strategic initiatives, a new position that will be a point of contact between the department and the city attorney’s office.

In his presentation about the hire to the Spokane City Council last month, Chief Frank Straub said Schwering had a “financial background, he has an analytical background, he has a systems background.”

But most notably, Schwering didn’t rise through the ranks.

“He’ll also bring some new ideas, some fresh ideas to the department,” Straub said. Schwering will serve in a non-commissioned position and is not one of the 25 new uniformed officers proposed for the 2014 city budget.

Tim Burns, the police ombudsman, supports the hire.

“Police are good at being police,” Burns said. “But sometimes you need somebody with certain expertise.”

Though Straub said Schwering would work with the city attorney’s office regarding “problem properties” in the community and new pot laws, in an interview last week, Schwering said his focus is on asset forfeiture, otherwise known as the seizure of money and property from drug dealers.

“My understanding of the past, that’s been a position (handled by numerous police captains) that’s been done but maybe not as well as it could have been,” Schwering said. “I don’t want to say it’s not been efficient. It’s more about what’s the best route as getting all the money there. … I don’t want to be leaving money on the table.”

Straub said this would entail running a financial investigation alongside the criminal investigation, which wasn’t previously done.

“My sense is that the (seized assets) were low … because we’re not paying enough attention to it,” Straub said.

According to city documents, drug busts have brought diminishing returns in recent years. In 2010, more than $380,000 was brought in to the forfeitures and fines fund. But next year, just $250,000 is expected.

Schwering will also lead the project to replace the city’s 19-year-old records management system it shares with the Sheriff’s Office.

A new, regional system is expected to be in place in 2015.

Schwering said his interest in the position came from his support for the changes being made by Straub.

“I wouldn’t have come over here if I didn’t believe the department wasn’t moving in a new direction,” said Schwering. “(Straub) is bringing people from the community into the police department, which has been viewed as insular in the past. I think that’s good for the department and the community as a whole.”

Schwering has a degree in information systems. After working for the University of Nebraska, he spent 10 years with the federal defenders and is certified as a crime analyst and fraud examiner.

His position was created out of unfilled posts within the department. He will report to Cmdr. Joe Walker and earn about $80,000 a year.