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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl resigns, plans to leave post at end of year

Spokane police Chief Craig Meidl discusses gang violence at a news conference in Spokane in 2021. Meidl announced his resignation Wednesday.  (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
By Emry Dinman and Emma Epperly The Spokesman-Review

Spokane police Chief Craig Meidl will resign from his position at the end of the year, he announced in a Wednesday news release.

“After almost 30 years serving the community of Spokane, it is time to close this chapter of my career,” Meidl wrote in a statement. “It has been an incredible blessing and honor to work every day toward creating a safer community and working with the truly amazing men and women of the Spokane Police Department.”

Meidl has recommended that Assistant Chief Justin Lundgren assume the role of interim chief, though that decision ultimately belongs to Mayor-elect Lisa Brown, Spokane Police Department spokeswoman Julie Humphreys said.

Meidl has been with the Spokane Police Department since 1994 and served in many roles, including working as a detective, SWAT Team member, on the special investigations unit, internal affairs lieutenant and liaison to the office of the police ombudsman. He was named police chief in 2016 by then-Mayor David Condon even though Meidl had not applied for the job. Prior to his appointment, Meidl was serving as assistant chief.

Before his hiring, Meidl faced some controversy over his participation in a salute in federal court to Karl Thompson, the former Spokane police officer convicted of civil rights violations in the 2006 death of Otto Zehm. He offered a public apology before he assumed the role of assistant chief and again when he became chief.

His surprise appointment by Condon brought stability to a department that had been rocked by Thompson’s conviction and then by the tumultuous tenure of Chief Frank Straub, which ended in his firing in 2015 following a sexual harassment scandal and reports of him creating a hostile work environment. Meidl’s much calmer demeanor, patience and steps he took to bring accountability to the department won over some critics early in his tenure. And his relationship with the rank-and-file was significantly better than that of the previous chief who had a longer tenure, Anne Kirkpatrick. Like Meidl, Kirkpatrack also resigned after voters rejected a second term for her boss in 2011.

More recently, however, Meidl faced demands from local activists to resign over what they called inappropriate communication with local business leaders that critics said amounted to a shadow effort to undermine police reforms and hurt liberal political opponents.

Meidl did not give a specific reason for his imminent retirement, which will be effective Dec. 31, though he noted the burden borne by his family due to his job responsibilities.

“I thank my family for their support and encouragement,” Meidl wrote. “The long hours, the weeknights and weekends attending events to connect with community and represent SPD at as many events as feasible, came at a cost to you all.”

The announcement was made a week after the general election in which Mayor Nadine Woodward lost her re-election bid to Brown. Brown recently told The Spokesman-Review that she had not made any decisions on whether to retain Meidl.

In a brief Wednesday interview, Brown thanked Meidl for his years of service and said she had been informed of Meidl’s pending resignation Wednesday afternoon while attempting to schedule a conversation with him and Lundgren. She still anticipates meeting with both department leaders to discuss the department’s needs and other matters.

“I’m open to whatever kind of conversation he wants to have,” Brown said.

Brown has not determined the process for hiring Meidl’s replacement, although she said she would immediately begin putting together a plan for once she is sworn in.

The incoming mayor will be faced with filling a number of vacant cabinet positions, including the City Administrator, a position filled on an interim basis by Spokane parks director Garrett Jones.

Brown has also previously stated she intends to replace city spokesman Brian Coddington and Chief Financial Officer Tonya Wallace.

In an emailed statement, Woodward thanked Meidl for his leadership and called the chief’s departure “bittersweet.”

“I am excited for Chief Meidl, his family, and his next chapter,” Woodward wrote. “At the same time, his departure leaves a huge void in the community and the department.”

Meidl thanked Woodward for her leadership and support of both the department and himself personally, and wished Brown success as she prepares to take the helm on Jan. 1.

“I wish Mayor-elect Brown success in continuing the ongoing journey to make Spokane a safe and healthy city,” Meidl stated.