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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Policing is the family business for interim Spokane chief Justin Lundgren

Justin Lundgren’s first memories of the Spokane Police Department are from home.

His dad would come home for lunch in the middle of his shift, pulling his classic patrol car with the single blue light on top into the family’s driveway.

Lundgren and his brothers, Nick and Steven, would show off the car to their friends and try to convince their dad to turn on the lights and sirens. Nick Lundgren remembers his dad letting him use the PA system to talk to his mom in the house.

Decades later, Justin Lundgren, 48, isn’t just a police officer – he’s leading the department of 350 officers as interim police chief. Nick Lundgren is a detective. Their father, Jim Lundgren, is cheering on his boys from retirement, offering advice as they follow in his footsteps.

In 1973, Jim Lundgren had just left the U.S. Navy, where he was a mechanic. He had begun attending school to further his career as a mechanic when he heard about a hiring boom at the Spokane Police Department ahead of Expo ’74.

He was hired, and after a daylong firearms class, was on patrol. He attended the training academy three months later.

“When you first come on, it’s very exciting,” Jim Lundgren said. “It’s a great opportunity to be able to help people.”

In 1974, he married Judy Lundgren, and the couple had three boys.

When the boys were young, Jim Lundgren was still working patrol and admittedly wasn’t around much.

“I’d like to give credit where credit is due,” he said. “She did a spectacular job.”

When Justin Lundgren began grade school, his father was promoted to detective. He was one of the founding members of the major crimes unit, Justin Lundgren said with pride.

“I just got assigned there,” his dad cut in.

Justin Lundgren remembers talking about detective work with his dad – how suspects would lie and the team would use interviewing tactics to get information out of them.

“There was a lot of skill involved,” Justin Lundgren said.

As a teen, his dad’s penchant for finding out the truth kept the boys honest.

“I’d start to lie, and he would look at me and he would say, ‘Don’t you lie to me,’ ” Justin Lundgren recalled. “You aren’t going to get away with much when your dad is a homicide detective.”

He looked up to his dad’s “good versus evil” fight to bring justice to homicide victims, Justin Lundgren said.

By the time he graduated from high school, Justin Lundgren was set on following in his father’s footsteps. He studied economics at Washington State University and had already completed his testing to join the Spokane Police Department by graduation.

He joined the force in 1997 at the age of 22.

Jim Lundgren was supportive, despite a few apprehensions – largely around his son’s safety.

For Justin Lundgren, joining the police department where his dad still worked was a dream.

He quickly realized that in the nitty -gritty day-to-day of patrol work, there’s a lot more gray area than in the good-versus-evil world of a homicide detective he saw as a child.

It was already clear that Nick Lundgren would join SPD, too. Just three years younger than Justin Lundgren, he had been volunteering with the department’s Police Explorer Program since high school.

Seeing his brother join the department “strengthened my resolve to become a police officer,” Nick Lundgren said.

He joined the department in 2000 after graduating from Eastern Washington University.

For six years, the trio worked on the same force until Jim Lundgren retired in 2006 after 33 years with the department.

The key to such a long career, Jim Lundgren said, was change. Every seven years or so, he took on a new role that challenged him and strengthened a new skill set.

His sons did the same. Nick Lundgren, now 45, worked patrol until 2014, when he became a detective.

Justin Lundgren worked patrol, moving up through the ranks until about 2010, when he began supervising the detectives unit. He worked in internal affairs for three years before recently retired Chief Craig Meidl asked him to be his assistant chief.

He was in that role for more than seven years before being asked by Mayor Lisa Brown to serve as interim chief while she hires a permanent replacement for Meidl.

The ability to influence change drew Justin Lundgren to leadership, but he never imagined being chief and doesn’t plan to apply for the job permanently.

With eight children raging in age from 2½ to 16, Justin Lundgren and his wife have their hands full.

The job of chief “requires a lot of time” that Justin Lundgren feels he needs to be spending with his family.

He also thinks deciding not to apply will make the search for a permanent chief easier for Brown, who he said has had “really good questions” for the department so far.

“She has been very interested in what the department needs,” he said.

Recently, he shared with Brown an issue the department had accessing state funds to tow away and dispose of abandoned RVs.

“That got resolved almost immediately when we brought it to her attention,” he said.

While Justin Lundgren is only in the position temporarily, his office as chief makes his priorities clear. From the family photo on the corner of his desk to the plant in a pot painted by one of his daughters to the wooden coat rack made by his dad, family is front and center.

For Nick Lundgren, seeing his brother in the role makes sense.

“He listens,” he said. “He doesn’t get set in his ways. He’s willing to listen to people and take input and to be able to change things if he sees a different vantage point.”

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to correct which branch of the military Jim Lundgren served in. He served in the Navy.