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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Chief Meidl says police department will review internal affairs cases after ombudsman complaint

Bart Logue, police ombudsman for the city of Spokane, seen in his office at City Hall in March 2016. Logue requested an audit of the police department’s internal affairs investigations dating back to 2015 after alleging records were withheld from him. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl will audit the department’s Internal Affairs investigations dating back to 2015, following an allegation from the police ombudsman that records were being withheld.

Jacquelyn MacConnell, who applied for the ombudsman position that was given to Bart Logue, will head the audit as the Spokane Police Department’s newly appointed director of strategic initiatives, Meidl said.

Logue hand-delivered a letter to Meidl on Thursday, outlining concerns that at least 11 of the cases involving his office in 2016 were not returned to him for certification after being closed by police investigators. The majority of those cases were adjudicated while Lt. Steven Braun was in charge of the Internal Affairs unit. Command has since been shifted to Lt. Tracie Meidl, the chief’s wife.

“This pattern of non-compliance could indicate intent to willfully disregard SPD policy as well as the (Spokane Municipal Code),” Logue wrote in that letter.

Logue said he’d met Thursday with Craig Meidl about the cases that were not forwarded to him, discovered while he and his assistant, Luvimae Omana, prepared a year-end report to deliver to the ombudsman commission and City Council. Logue said the letter was not meant to “cause an uproar,” but rather as an attempt to establish ground rules for his oversight moving forward.

“We need to close these nuances, wherever they appear,” Logue said in an interview Tuesday. “It’ll be better for everybody, if instead of us making up the rules as we go along, let’s have them established.”

The police chief said he hadn’t reviewed the cases Logue cited in his letter, but believed the ombudsman did have access to the findings through the department’s software, just that notification was not sent when the case was closed.

Meidl said, “At a minimum, to me, it is not best practice to not send some documentation back to the (ombudsman) with how that case was resolved.”

Logue said the timing of his review was crucial and is another potential pitfall that must be sorted out as his role at City Hall takes shape. If he receives a case file after command staff have reviewed it and made a disciplinary decision, Logue said he believes he legally can’t certify the findings because city law prohibits him from weighing in on disciplinary decisions.

The city is in contract negotiations with the Spokane Police Guild, and City Councilman Breean Beggs is crafting revisions to the ordinance governing the ombudsman’s office, both of which will likely have implications on the authority of Logue’s office moving forward.

For now, Meidl said the department should be focused on ensuring open communication with Logue and his office.

“I think, quite frankly, it was sloppy for us not to close that loop with the (ombudsman) on those cases he reviewed,” Meidl said.