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

SPD assistant chief Selby Smith to retire

By Nina Culver and Rachel Alexander The Spokesman-Review

The turmoil in the top ranks of the Spokane Police Department continues as assistant chief Selby Smith has announced he will retire at the end of the year.

Smith, 52, was hired to oversee the Spokane Police Department’s investigations division in February 2014 after more than 25 years working as a DEA agent. Acting Police Chief Rick Dobrow said Smith is ready to retire to spend more time with his family.

“He had a whole career with the Drug Enforcement Administration before us,” said Dobrow. “Former Chief (Frank) Straub roped him into coming in and helping with our investigations division.”

Smith’s appointment occurred after a departmental shake-up where several high-ranking officers stepped down or were demoted. Smith’s position was previously held by Joe Walker, who stepped down as commander of investigations to return to a lieutenant position. Smith earned $108,912.80 in 2014.

As assistant chief, Smith oversaw the creation of a civil enforcement unit in the department, which handled asset seizure and forfeiture as well as nuisance properties.

Walker initially supervised that unit, but was later transferred out. He filed a whistleblower complaint in 2014 about an apparently illegal seizure of more than $13,000 cash by a detective and said Straub and Smith’s leadership created a culture of seizing assets for revenue.

Smith did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Dobrow said no one will be immediately hired to replace Smith, partly because Dobrow’s own position could be temporary. Dobrow was named acting chief after Straub was forced to resign in September; a committee has been formed to advise Mayor David Condon on the search for Straub’s replacement.

“At this point we don’t know what my long-term status is,” Dobrow said. “I don’t want to make any presumptions.”

Smith’s second in command, Capt. Eric Olsen, will run the investigations division in the short term. Dobrow said if he is made the permanent police chief he wants to evaluate the structure of the department before deciding whether to replace Smith.

“We just want to structure the organization so it can be the most effective going into the future,” Dobrow said.

Councilman Jon Snyder, who chairs the city’s public safety committee, said he wasn’t notified of Smith’s retirement.

Snyder said he doesn’t know Smith well, but doesn’t believe his departure will hurt the department. However, Snyder said he is concerned that the city has been unable to hold on to good, professional employees in general.

“We’ve had some hires in the last few years that haven’t worked out,” he said. “We need to continue to make a great city to work at where people are treated with fairness and honesty.”