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Thursday, September 19, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane police lieutenant receives pay bump for job he’s not technically qualified to fill

A Spokane police lieutenant received a 26 percent pay bump this year to fill a job he’s not technically qualified to hold.

Lt. Justin Lundgren, who oversees the department’s Internal Affairs unit, was temporarily given the title of “major” in January. He’s being paid $73 per hour, a $15 increase over his earlier hourly wage. At 40 hours per week, the increased pay makes for about a $152,000 annual salary.

The change enables Lundgren to fill in for Tim Schwering, the civilian director of the department’s Office of Professional Accountability, which oversees Internal Affairs, public records, the body camera program and the Department of Justice reforms that are in progress. Schwering, who was paid $105,339 in 2015, is attending the police academy.

“It made sense to have him oversee these recommendations as it would take anyone else significant time to get caught up on where we are at and where we still need to go to complete those recommendations,” Assistant Chief Craig Meidl said of Lundgren in an email.

Meidl said that technically, Lundgren is temporarily serving in a director position – a civilian job equivalent to commander or major – but being paid on the major pay scale. But Lundgren refers to himself as a major in Internal Affairs investigations he’s completed since January, and other police brass have referred to him by that title since the change.

The major rank was last used by former Chief Anne Kirkpatrick. According to city job descriptions, a promotion to major requires three years of experience as a lieutenant or captain. Lundgren was promoted to lieutenant in September 2013, making him nine months shy of qualifying at the time of promotion.

The Police Department calls job changes like this “out-of-grade promotions.” Thanks to shakeups in police leadership since the firing of former Chief Frank Straub last fall, a number of other department leaders are serving in out-of-grade positions. Meidl is a captain serving as assistant chief, and Lt. Thomas Hendren was given an out-of-grade promotion to captain to cover the Hillyard precinct, Meidl’s old job.

Meidl and Hendren each received a pay bump of about $10.25 an hour for their new jobs, city payroll records show.

When former police Chief Rick Dobrow announced Lundgren’s promotion in January, it raised some concerns from the Lieutenants and Captains Association, which said the process Dobrow used didn’t make sense.

Under civil service rules, the department maintains a list of people qualified for a given position and selects someone from that list when a new job opens up. Out-of-grade promotions aren’t considered to be actual promotions by civil service and don’t have to follow those rules, said Gita Hatcher, the city’s civil service director. But the department normally uses the same process for temporary, out-of-grade assignments.

“While major is a rank that is available to be used, we did not have a current civil service list for that position,” said Lt. Dave McCabe, the president of the association. That means others who were qualified for the post, including captains, weren’t considered.

McCabe said he understands why the department chose to promote Lundgren, given his experience in Internal Affairs.

“We’re certainly not looking to harm Justin in any way by taking away any pay. It was basically just a question about the process that was used,” he said.

In his temporary assignment, Lundgren does not receive overtime pay, Meidl said, though he regularly works more than 40 hours per week attending community meetings. Payroll records confirm Lundgren has not been paid for any overtime since his pay was increased.

Lundgren will return to his regular job when Schwering graduates from the academy in June.

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