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

Spokane mayor picks 4 finalists to be next police chief

By Alexandra Duggan and Elena Perry The Spokesman-Review

Spokane Mayor Lisa Brown selected four police leaders from across the U.S. as finalists to helm the Spokane Police Department, with none being internal candidates.

The decision comes four months after Brown announced the formation of a committee to help hire a new chief, along with multiple community town halls, surveys and input from the police department.

The finalists are:

• The Dalles (Oregon) Police Chief Tom Worthy.

• Assistant Tucson (Arizona) Police Chief Kevin Hall.

• Yakima Police Chief Matthew Murray.

• Memphis (Tennessee) Police Col. Kathleen Lanier.

The finalists will be in Spokane for a public forum from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday at the Central Library downtown.

The Dalles, Oregon, Police Chief Tom Worthy

Worthy has worked in his current role as chief of The Dalles Police Department since 2021, previously working for the Oregon State Police for 29 years, according to his LinkedIn profile.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Washington State University and master’s in law enforcement and public safety leadership from the University of San Diego.

A Pullman native, he’s eager to return to the Inland Northwest and apply his “brand of policing,” with the resources of a larger police department. Police should prioritize “guardianship” over their communities rather than having a “warrior mentality,” he said in an interview Thursday.

He intends to make policing “more collaborative with the community.” This means partnering with other entities like schools, hospitals, businesses, providers and other law enforcement.

“If we’re going to a person in crisis, let’s take somebody qualified to deal with that outside of law enforcement with us, if we can,” Worthy said. “And make sure that we have a good encounter with that person if possible, and provide them both services, as well as accountability.”

To reduce crime, Worthy would station more officers in high-crime areas. He claimed officers have a “halo effect” while on patrol, and their presence reduces crime even after they’ve vacated the area.

“People aren’t going to do crime if a cop is standing there, and once we leave, they’re still not gonna do crime there for a certain amount of time,” Worthy said.

To address fentanyl use, over which Brown declared a citywide emergency earlier this month, Worthy said treatment is a priority addressed by community drug court. The police department’s role in addressing fentanyl use is carrying, distributing and administering overdose-reversal drug Narcan and investigating large scale drug-trafficking systems that bring fentanyl to Spokane streets.

“That’s an approach to it that we want to undertake, but we’re not gonna solve the drug crisis, let’s be clear about that,” Worthy said. “Drugs are gonna continue to persist in the community, but we can mitigate that harm and direct people towards the services that help them get better and become a productive member of society.”

This year, Spokane police officers have shot five suspects, killing four. Spokane law enforcement, including police and sheriff’s department, has killed more armed suspects this year in February than in all of 2023. Worthy intends to make police shootings “as rare as possible,” though he added deadly force is sometimes unavoidable.

“We want to do as little harm, even if it means swallowing our pride and backing off and coming back later, or letting somebody walk and catch ’ em again later,” Worthy said. “We want to reduce those confrontational interactions between our officers and suspects, and keep them from turning into that shooting or that other use of force that looks horrible on camera.”

When an officer shoots a suspect, Worthy said he will evaluate the situation leading to the shooting, determining what mistakes parties made and how they can train officers to not repeat them.

Tucson, Arizona, Assistant Police Chief Kevin Hall

Hall is a 32-year employee of the Tucson Police Department, according to his biography on the department’s website. He serves as the commander for the Field Services Division but has experience in multiple units of policing. Those include home invasion, homicide, SWAT, gangs, internal affairs and child abuse.

Hall is an Air Force veteran and has received multiple medals for his service and merit within law enforcement, the department’s website says. He also helped spearhead the department’s deflection program that offers alternative responses to behavioral health and substance misuse before arrests.

Hall has applied for police chief positions during his time in Arizona before – according to Oakland, California, TV station KTVU – Hall was among three candidates for the city’s police chief in December, but the mayor rejected all of them. It is unclear why Hall wasn’t selected.

In 2022, Hall was also among three candidates vying for police chief in Seattle, the Arizona Republic reported.

Hall declined an interview Thursday but said he is “honored and looking forward to continuing in the process.”

Tucson Police Department said in a prepared statement that Hall has made many invaluable contributions to the community, and they “wish him the best of luck in the process.”

Yakima Police Chief Matthew Murray

Murray could not be reached for comment on Thursday. A Yakima Police Department spokesperson wrote in an email it would be “inappropriate for him to speak” outside of the city’s hiring process and declined an interview on his behalf.

Murray has led the Yakima Police Department since 2019, and he announced his retirement last month. He previously worked at the Denver Police Department since 1991, serving as the deputy chief of police, police commander chief-of-staff, detective in the department’s major crimes division and finally a lieutenant overseeing public relations when he joined the force in Yakima.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in management from the University of Phoenix and a master’s in organizational leadership from Regis University.

While in Denver, the sheriff’s department investigated Murray and former Denver Police Chief Robert White in 2016, the Yakima Herald-Republic reported in 2019. The investigation was based on allegations that the two violated protocol in handling accusations of sexual assault against a police officer and an open records request. The investigation wrapped in 2018 with no criminal charges against Murray, though the sheriff’s department recommended internal discipline for going against department policy on sharing records.

“His failure to comply with policy was a negative reflection on the Department and on Chief White himself,” the report stated.

The sheriff’s department recommended a four-day suspension without pay for the policy breach, though the police department didn’t discipline Murray in its review of the investigation.

Memphis, Tennessee, Police Col. Kathleen Lanier

Lanier has been on the force for 35 years, according to a Facebook post from the department.

She could not be reached for an interview Thursday.

Lanier rose from a patrolwoman, the Memphis Commercial Appeal reported. In a 2020 interview with the publication, she advocated for more women in law enforcement.

“A woman being in the driver’s seat, at the helm of this department, in this day and age, probably is not a bad idea,” she told the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

It also appeared Lanier advocated for the intricacies of community policing in her interview, in which she said she’s survived more than 30 years on the job because she has gotten to know her community so well.

“We communicate, we work together, you know, we sit down and we respect one another,” she said during the interview.

The search

Former Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl announced plans to retire at the end of 2023 shortly after Brown defeated then-Mayor Nadine Woodward in the November election. Assistant Police Chief Justin Lundgren has served as interim chief since. He said when he took the position that he would not apply to keep it permanently.

The search committee established by Deputy City Administrator Maggie Yates included those from city council, the assistant police chief, the head of the police union, fire department union, service providers and some small business leaders.

The search committee solicited the recruitment and search assistance from Public Sector Search, a California-based recruitment firm focusing on hiring police executives.

City Councilman Paul Dillon, who sits on the committee due to his role as the public safety chair, said the group was extremely diverse and all seemed to be “on the same page” about what they want in a new police chief.

The reasoning for selecting finalists outside of Spokane, Dillion said, was because the committee wanted “fresh eyes” and someone who could “hit the ground running” the first day on the job. Internal candidates did apply, but it’s unclear how many. There were around 14 candidates total, Dillon said, and the committee interviewed eight. They recommended five to Brown, and she selected four as finalists.

She’s looking for an effective communicator with leadership experience and a “commitment to the community,” she said.

The committee has yet to ask more specific questions of the candidates – such as how they plan to tackle policing rampant drug use around the streets of Spokane, where fentanyl-related deaths have increased 1,664% since 2019. Dillon said the committee plans to do a deeper dive into more detailed questions toward the candidates about the issues Spokane is facing during the final interview and hopes to glean more information from community members participating in the public forum next week.

The “bottom line” for Dillon is investing in a chief who can also invest in community policing and the public as a whole, he said.

“We need a chief that wants to bring law enforcement, community groups and public health representatives together to reshape how we work together and build foundational trust through community engagement,” Dillon said. “And I want a chief that sees the value in expanding behavioral health and how we respond to people who suffer from those issues.”

He added he wants to prioritize accountability, transparency, oversight and crime prevention strategies, largely falling under the community policing “umbrella” – something he said was a challenge under Woodward’s administration.

Councilman Michael Cathcart, who also participated in selecting the four police chief finalists, said his concerns lie with a chief who can dig deeper into community and neighborhood policing. For the past four years, he said, he hasn’t seen that.

“We are barely scratching the surface,” Cathcart said. “Putting officers downtown on bikes is not community policing.”

Cathcart also said he prefers someone who can manage a tight budget. It’s going to be a bigger discussion once the new chief arrives, because there is “anticipation of cuts coming,” he said.

The cuts are largely based on a $20-25 million deficit within the city, which Brown attempted to alleviate with an August ballot measure that proposed raising an estimated $38 million each year in perpetuity – the exact amount collected would increase slightly over time – by collecting an extra $1 per $1,000 of assessed value.

This would have raised around $228 million over the next six years, for example, and Brown recommended spending roughly $40 million of that to expand the services provided by the fire department, another $40 million for the police department and another $12 million on other issues related to public safety over the next six years. Brown presented a summary to council on April 26, which suggested a failed levy could result in the layoff of 50 police officers, 30 firefighters and an additional 70 employees across other departments.

Brown, however, backed out of the ballot proposal in May in order to continue the budget review process and “present a levy to the public that has been thoroughly vetted and engaged with the public.”

Cathcart said the new chief must be able to “operate that debt.”

“… And to do it, with limited means. I’m not supporting cuts to the budget, but there may be cuts coming,” he said. “They have to be able to work within their means in ways others may not be able to make happen.”

As far as police anticipation for budget cuts, spokeswoman Julie Humphreys said the department is looking at possible “worst-case scenarios” where they would have to make cuts or alter first responder services altogether.

“It’s very serious,” she said. “We are taking a hard look at what we can do.”

The new chief, Cathcart said, will need to be a “leader who can shake things up.”

Each finalist is extremely qualified, he said.

“Qualified chief candidates are in front of us,” Cathcart said. “I am pleased with the pool.”