Spokane should have a new police chief on the job by July 1, Mayor David Condon said Tuesday.
During a meeting that sometimes grew tense, Condon discussed the next hiring steps with members of a committee he appointed to advise him on a job description and qualities needed in a new chief.
By the end of the week, the city is planning to issue a request for bids from firms to conduct a nationwide executive search, Condon said. That’s based on a committee recommendation, which suggests an outside firm could “hunt for highly-qualified matching candidates from a national pool, and persuade them that this job in Spokane need not be a career-ending post.” Applications will close at the end of April.
Committee members and Condon also talked about the process for a police culture audit with Kathy Armstrong, the program manager for the department’s Office of Professional Accountability. Such an audit also would be done by an outside firm. Armstrong said she hopes to issue a request for bids soon after having some interviews with interested community members to refine the scope of work.
The meeting grew tense during discussion about Condon’s decision to appoint former U.S. Attorney Jim McDevitt as temporary law enforcement director, a move some committee members felt went against their input that the chief be committed to racial equity based on statements he made about race and police violence.
McDevitt had been appointed to serve on the advisory committee. But last week he resigned his seat on the committee after some members raised concerns about an op-ed he wrote for The Spokesman-Review last year. Also, he suggested it would be a conflict of interest for him to continue serving while he is the de facto police chief.
Kennewick police Chief Ken Hohenberg has since announced his resignation from the committee in an email sent to Condon. He raised concerns that some panel members were discussing committee business outside of meetings. Remaining committee members said Tuesday that was not true.
On Tuesday, Spokane NAACP president Naima Quarles-Burnley, Native Project CEO Toni Lodge and committee chair Mary Ann Murphy reiterated their concerns that McDevitt does not appear to understand how systemic racism impacts policing based on discussions he had with other committee members. Quarles-Burnley said she was considering quitting the group over the issue.
“It’s hard for me to believe my voice is going to be heard and the voice of the community I represent is going to be heard and heeded or respected when there was an opportunity to apply a racial equity lens and it wasn’t done,” she said.
Condon responded to those concerns by saying he appreciated the opportunity to discuss the issues and that people concerned should look at McDevitt’s entire record as U.S. attorney. Lodge said her concern was less with the views McDevitt expressed, and more that he didn’t appear to be able to discuss them calmly with people who had different points of view.
“My only concern about how this whole interim police thing was that that person was not able to have the discussion. They got up and walked out of the room when we had a hard conversation,” she said, referring to McDevitt.
In an interview last week, McDevitt said he decided to resign to avoid a conflict of interest and didn’t want to sit around while his integrity was questioned.
“It’s really sad because I’m trying to help out here,” he said. “I’m trying to provide some stability. I think within law enforcement and maybe in the community I’ve earned a pretty good reputation for being fair, for being objective, for not being biased in any way or form.”
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