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Opinion >  Column

Doug Clark: Condon’s police chief pick is beyond a blunder – it’s egregious

Doug Clark (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Doug Clark (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review) Buy this photo

Cue the violins. Break out the hankies.

Craig Meidl, Spokane Mayor David Condon’s ambush appointment for police chief, is now really, really sorry for being one of the four dozen SPD goons who, in 2011, saluted convicted felon Karl Thompson Jr. in federal court.


If you had told me last week that a Thompson-saluting cop would one day rise to lead the department, I would have told you to go flush your drugs down the nearest commode and check yourself into rehab.

I shouldn’t be so shocked, I guess.

There are obviously two ways to hire a police chief around here.

There’s the right way.

Then there’s the Mayor Condon way.

Thompson, by the way, is the ex-Spokane police officer who unleashed a savage 2006 beating on an innocent civilian named Otto Zehm and then lied to investigators afterward. Zehm was hogtied, clubbed, shocked and suffocated and died days after the convenience store attack.

Nice try, Chief Craig, but your mea culpa is five years tardy.

Here’s the thing about apologies.

They only matter when the one being sorrowful doesn’t stand to gain anything.

So pardon me for not being in a buying mood.

Now that Condon has turned his selection process into a bad joke by tapping Meidl, the assistant SPD chief has decided he wants the top job. Which is hysterical considering that he earlier said he didn’t want the position and didn’t intend to apply.

You’d think Condon would have learned something from how mystifyingly horrible and litigious Frank Straub, his last pick for chief, turned out to be.

The mayor works in mysterious ways, his blunders to perform.

But this time?

This time, Condon has topped himself. Blindsiding us with Meidl is the most egregious and callous act by a Spokane mayor that I’ve ever seen.

It appears the mayor, despite all his first campaign rhetoric, has a disconnect when it comes to the impact Otto Zehm still has on the Spokane community.

Meidl wasn’t only in on the saluting. He showed solidarity for his felonious ex-brother in a 2011 email to SPD troops.

Meidl called Thompson an “innocent man who was found guilty,” and …

“Karl was the most professional officer in the department,” gushed Meidl. “If it could happen to him, it could happen to me.”

He’s kidding, right? The video cameras in the North Division Zip Trip clearly showed Thompson unnecessarily destroying a defenseless human being.

Is this what Meidl claimed might happen to him?

Hide the children.

Ah, but time and opportunity for lucrative advancement can heal all wounds, I suppose.

With a firestorm building over his Thompson-loving past, however, Meidl finds himself in an awkward position.

While the mayor has already pinned the corsage on him, Meidl still needs City Council confirmation if Spokane’s charter is still worth anything.

So no wonder Meidl is so truly very sorry.

Me? I’ve never been so embarrassed for my hometown.

Plus, I’m perplexed and bewildered.

I can’t figure out why Mayor Condon, an obviously intelligent human being, persists in creating such police chief chaos.

Is he bored? Is he listening to fools?

Does he have Napoleonic delusions?

Selecting Meidl out of the blue is wrong on so many levels.

It’s a disgrace to the memory of Zehm and everyone who cares about what happened to him.

It’s disrespectful to all the candidates who applied.

It’s an insult to every panelist who gave up precious time hearing and interviewing the chief hopefuls, plus all the discussions that followed.

It’s a slap in the faces of the two legitimate finalists: Yakima police Chief Dominic Rizzi Jr., and Robert Lehner, the chief of police in Elk Grove, California.

It’s a betrayal of every citizen who believes that government should be conducted in a fair and transparent manner.

The City Council should stand up to the mayor’s shenanigans.

If this is what we get by giving a Spokane mayor a historic second shot, I’m feeling nostalgic for the good old one-term curse.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by email at

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