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Opinion >  Column

Doug Clark: Spokane City Council should reject Craig Meidl for police chief

Newly named Spokane police Chief Craig Meidl answers questions  during a public forum at the West Central Community Center on Thursday night. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Newly named Spokane police Chief Craig Meidl answers questions during a public forum at the West Central Community Center on Thursday night. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review) Buy this photo

Craig Meidl, Mayor David Condon’s double-cross selection for police chief, answered questions Thursday night in a crammed, stuffy room at Spokane’s West Central Community Center.

What this was supposed to accomplish, I haven’t a clue.

One by one, well-intentioned citizens asked Meidl for his thoughts on subjects that included police cover-ups, shootings, management style, body cameras and how his faith in God affects his police work.

Every now and then a knowledgeable soul would try to explore something meaty like, for example, Meidl’s role as one of the four-dozen officers who disgraced their SPD badges by saluting Karl Thompson in a federal courtroom.

The obnoxious salute occurred two days after the ex-cop’s 2011 conviction for the inexcusable beating of Otto Zehm, an innocent civilian, and lying to investigators about the convenience store attack that led to Zehm’s deth.

But just when it looked like a cogent line of thought was opening up, the public forum’s limit of one question per person would kick in. The next citizen interrogator would step up and invariably get us mired in the weeds again.

Too many kooks spoil the soup, as they say.

Oh, boy. I can hardly wait to NOT attend the next Meidl meet-and-greet. Round 2 will supposedly take place Wednesday night at the East Central Community Center.

The forums are a total waste of perspiration, if you ask me. Spokane doesn’t need to get to know Meidl any better.

Spokane needs the City Council to tell the mayor to take this chief’s job and shove it. (Apologies to Johnny Paycheck.) I’m hoping that’ll happen at the Aug. 22 council meeting.

In the meantime, why complicate matters by putting Meidl on this public appearance tour as if he were a real candidate?

He isn’t. The assistant chief didn’t bother to apply. He told people he didn’t want the top job.

Then Condon came calling and …

Who can resist the mayor, not to mention a salary that could pay up to 185 grand a year?

Heck, I’ll be police chief for that much do-re-mi. I hope you council members are listening.

Caving into Condon by confirming Meidl as chief would be saying that a legitimate process means nothing.

For a time, anyway, it looked like the mayor was daring to get it right. That was a pleasant change from the last go-round, when Condon pretty much foisted the profane and disastrous Chief Frank Straub upon us.

Now, volunteer panelists had responsibly narrowed the field down to two worthy candidates: Yakima police Chief Dominic Rizzi Jr. and Robert Lehner, the chief of police in Elk Grove, California.

Stability was so close you could almost relax and say “ahhh.”

Then like the stagecoach holdup in “3:10 to Yuma,” Condon pulled an ambush and named Craig Meidl as his chief du jour.

Well, slap me silly. Little mayor has made monkeys of us all.

Condon bypassed the process and selected one of the Salute Squad. Plus Meidl’s the guy who called Thompson an “innocent man who was found guilty” in an email to troops.

During the Thursday forum, Meidl gave us some psychobabble about how his email really conveyed the deep and disturbed sentiments that were floating around the SPD back in 2011.


I’ve read the email several times. Meidl doesn’t seem so detached when he added that “these are emotions we are all feeling right now.”

Other than that, hey, Meidl strikes me as a swell guy.

He came off well during his forum time. He tried to answer everybody. He complimented people on their “good” questions even when they clearly weren’t.

He smiled a lot. He cracked a joke or two at his own expense.

Meidl’s probably a fine family man, a guy you’d want as a neighbor or on your bowling team.

But Spokane police chief?

Sorry Craig. If the council has any kind of spine, that’s not going to happen.

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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