A new round of interviews didn’t change Mayor David Condon’s mind about who he wants to lead the Spokane Police Department.
Condon announced Monday morning that he picked interim Chief Craig Meidl to lead the department on a permanent basis. The announcement was made more than a year after the forced departure of Chief Frank Straub and followed a protracted hiring process that increased friction between the mayor and the City Council.
The council will have the final say on Condon’s appointment.
“The support we received for Chief Meidl was overwhelming,” Condon said, adding that Meidl is “acutely aware” of the challenges facing the department. “Three of the interview panels were unanimous, and the fourth was split for Chief Meidl and another candidate.”
Condon also selected Meidl, who has been with the department since 1994, for the chief job earlier this summer in a surprise announcement. The mayor had created an extensive selection process, and Meidl didn’t apply or go through the interviews. The City Council was ready to block Meidl’s nomination, so Condon agreed to redo the process.
The mayor said Monday the council-prompted do-over was “a good opportunity” to establish trust between Meidl and the community.
“It was a fair process,” Council President Ben Stuckart said after Condon’s announcement. “I look forward to working with Craig, and I’m excited to be here as we keep moving forward as a community.”
Stuckart said the council likely will vote on the pick Oct. 10.
Stuckart was among those who originally opposed Meidl’s selection, saying Condon should not have bypassed the formal process. This time Meidl applied and went through the interview process.
The other candidates included two finalists from the last round: Yakima police Chief Dominic Rizzi and Elk Grove, California, police Chief Robert Lehner. The fourth finalist was Frisco, Texas, police Chief John Bruce.
“We must now move forward after a protracted hiring process and walk that long road to restore credibility and legitimacy to our police department,” said Phil Tyler, president of the Spokane NAACP. “Our city and our citizens deserve nothing less.”
Meidl said he looks forward to making leadership promotions that have been on hold since Straub was ousted from the position last summer over claims of sexual harassment and abusive leadership tactics.
“I believe the Spokane Police Department is at a pivotal point,” Meidl said after Condon’s announcement. “We will review our department’s culture, examining both the positive and negative, to see what changes need to be made, and what positives need to remain and be expanded upon.”
Meidl has faced some community opposition over his participation in a federal courtroom salute to Karl Thompson, the former Spokane police officer convicted of civil rights violations in the 2006 death of Otto Zehm.
Condon made the announcement at an event celebrating the move of Community Oriented Policing Services, a volunteer organization that assists law enforcement, into the police department’s northeast precinct building.
“The COPS partnership is one of Spokane’s great success stories,” Condon said, adding that the move “increases the visibility of the program, encourages closer interaction between officers and volunteers, and delivers better service to the neighborhoods in northeast Spokane.”
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