Craig Meidl wants the police chief job even if City Council President Ben Stuckart won’t vote for him.
“If he is not comfortable voting to confirm me, that’s OK, I don’t take it personal,” Meidl said in an interview Thursday. “He’s there to represent the voice of the people. He’s one of many branches of the government.”
Stuckart told Spokesman-Review columnist Shawn Vestal that he wouldn’t be voting to confirm Meidl, citing the circumstances surrounding the veteran officer’s appointment by Mayor David Condon. Meidl had said publicly he didn’t want the police chief job and didn’t apply for it. Weeks later Condon selected him anyway, dismissing a vetting process that had settled on two finalists from outside the department.
Stuckart did not respond to a phone call requesting his position on the upcoming Meidl vote for this story.
Councilman Breean Beggs said Thursday he didn’t have an answer on how he would vote Monday. Beggs said he was still working on potential “compromises,” including a six-month probationary period with Meidl as chief. Meidl said he was open to serving in that capacity, but that it wouldn’t provide the Spokane Police Department the permanence in leadership it needs right now.
“It doesn’t provide that same level of stability, as saying this is our chief, this is the guy we’re going with moving forward, and get the department moving to reduce crime and do community outreach,” Meidl said. “If that’s what they decide, then I’m supportive of it. But it does come at somewhat of a cost.”
The department has operated with an interim chief since the forced resignation of Frank Straub nearly a year ago. Straub was hired in 2012, also after a lengthy period in which the department was led by an interim chief, Scott Stephens.
Citing the questions at recent public forums, Meidl said the focus in his vetting process has veered from crime reduction to concern about the process and his controversial involvement in a courtroom salute of former Spokane Police Officer Karl Thompson, who was convicted of civil rights violations in the death of Otto Zehm.
“It’s fascinating to me, amongst all these discussions, that people don’t seem to be as focused on crime reduction as they are on a lot of these other issues that are popping up,” Meidl said.
Meidl said he would serve even if the council is not unanimous in their support, as long as a majority of council members cast their votes for him.
The City Council is scheduled to vote on Meidl’s confirmation at its regularly scheduled meeting Monday night at City Hall, beginning at 6 p.m.
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