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

Mayor Brown: More work to be done before recruiting Spokane police, fire chiefs

Interim Spokane Police Chief Justin Lundgren and Spokane Mayor Lisa Brown speak Wednesday at a news conference concerning the recent string of police shootings.  (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

Amid a spate of police shootings this week, Spokane Mayor Lisa Brown announced Wednesday that there’s more work to be done before the hiring process for the city’s permanent police or fire chief can begin.

Brown also addressed a recent surge of violence, including two incidents Monday that ended with police shooting and killing suspects.

“We all want things to be better than they have been in recent times, and I firmly believe they can be,” Brown said during a news conference.

“There is not a single solution to these problems,” she added. “The improvement that we seek is not going to happen overnight. But we are Spokane. We care about people, and when we take on big challenges, we are at our best.”

The city of Spokane has been without a permanent police or fire chief for six weeks.

Community members will soon be asked to tell city leaders what they want in a new fire or police chief with surveys and in forums that have not been published or scheduled. Employees in the fire and police departments will also be given internal surveys.

Newly appointed Deputy City Administrator Maggie Yates will lead the search with feedback from the community and a selection committee made up of city officials, union representatives, business leaders, service providers and others.

Yates noted the search process would likely take several more months, saying that the city wanted to strike a balance between swift action and meaningful community engagement.

Former Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl announced plans to retire at the end of 2023 shortly after Brown won election in November. Assistant Police Chief Justin Lundgren was tapped to serve as interim chief.

Brown announced Jan. 3 she planned to replace Spokane Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer. Deputy Fire Chief Julie O’Berg agreed to fill in as interim chief, though Schaeffer continues to serve in some capacity with the department through March.

Lundgren and O’Berg have said they don’t plan to apply for their leadership roles permanently.

Yates will also be leading an internal workgroup made up of “subject matter experts,” city officials and elected leaders who will meet monthly to discuss how to address chronic public safety concerns, such as behavioral health response teams, domestic violence and people who are frequently arrested.