Newly appointed Spokane police Chief Craig Meidl has finalized the structure of his command staff, and it includes employing his wife to investigate transgressions on the force.
Craig Meidl said his wife, Lt. Tracie Meidl, will serve as a lieutenant in charge of internal affairs investigations as part of a standard rotation of police brass.
Those rotations haven’t occurred since former Chief Frank Straub was forced out of office in September 2015.
“We haven’t had any rotations, significant rotations, in well over a year,” Craig Meidl said. The purpose of the transfer is to create more well-rounded officers with expertise in different administrative functions, he said.
Following the recommendations of a panel that included city human resource officials and police representatives, Tracie Meidl was rolled back to the rank of lieutenant, following a temporary promotion this summer to captain by outgoing Law Enforcement Director Jim McDevitt.
Tracie Meidl had been one of the candidates interviewed for six captain positions and two major positions, all serving a command structure with Craig Meidl at the helm and Assistant Chief Justin Lundgren as second-in-command. Craig Meidl was not involved in the interviews as part of an arrangement he agreed to when accepting the nomination as chief from Mayor David Condon.
The police department’s executive command staff makes assignment decisions for lieutenants, Lundgren said, not the chief alone.
City Councilwoman Karen Stratton, the lone vote on the City Council against Craig Meidl’s confirmation, said Tracie Meidl’s position as head of the department’s internal investigative body “doesn’t look good.”
“This community has been through hell and back with this process,” Stratton said of the strained search for a police chief, which was complicated when Condon handpicked Meidl despite his stated non-interest in the job during an extensive public hiring process. The City Council eventually pressured Condon into restarting interviews with Meidl as a candidate.
“I just want to make sure it’s transparent,” Stratton said of the internal affairs arrangement.
City Councilwoman Lori Kinnear, chairwoman of the city’s Public Safety Committee, said she was briefed on the decision and had “no concerns” about Tracie Meidl’s role in the new command structure. Kinnear added that Craig Meidl was placed in a tough spot on his wife’s assignment in the department.
“Where she’s going to be put, somebody’s going to say, ‘Well, why is she there?’” Kinnear said. “He can’t win.”
Tracie Meidl, who has not yet worked in internal affairs, said there would be three people she reports to ahead of her husband, the chief. The first is a yet-to-be-hired director of strategic initiatives, a civilian hire who will directly oversee training and programs within the department, as well as internal affairs. Craig Meidl said the department hoped to fill that position soon.
The second person Tracie Meidl will report to will be Lundgren, as assistant chief, and the final person is Bart Logue, the ombudsman of the department. As lieutenant of the Internal Affairs office, Tracie Meidl will be responsible for conducting interviews and collecting evidence, not making recommendations on discipline, police officials said.
In addition, investigations prepared by the internal affairs department are passed up to supervising officers for the police employee named in a complaint, and potentially a review panel of police administration, Lundgren said. Craig Meidl would only become involved if an employee faces a fine or loss of job, Lundgren said.
Tracie Meidl said she hoped an understanding of the process would show that her work, which is limited to questioning witnesses and providing a thorough investigative report to superior officers for decisions on discipline, would calm any fears about nepotism in the department.
“My hope is that they would absolutely see there would be no conflict. No agendas, or that type of thing,” Tracie Meidl said.
The transfers take effect Dec. 4, Craig Meidl said. In addition to Tracie Meidl’s transfer, Capt. Brad Arleth will assume control of investigations and Capt. Keith Cummings will remain in charge of administration, both serving under Maj. Erik Olsen.
Capts. Dave Singley, Dave Richards and Dan Torok will be in control of the downtown, south and north precincts, with Capt. Thomas Hendren in charge of patrol. Those captains will serve under the direction of Maj. Kevin King. The former lieutenant in charge of internal affairs investigations, Dave Staben, will move to the targeted crime unit.
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