Spokane mayor selects new police chief; former candidates react
SPOKANE, Wash. - Spokane Mayor David Condon announced Interim Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl will stay on as SPD chief permanently.
Meidl, who took over in July when Jim McDevitt stepped down as Spokane Police Department Director of Law Enforcement to enjoy retirement, had been serving as assistant chief for the department before being left in charge.
Meidl did not put his name in the pool of candidates initially, but said the Mayor approached him about it.
"Sometimes you have to look far and wide to discover what you've been looking for has been right in front of you," Mayor Condon said about Meidl.
The Monday morning press conference comes after, one week earlier, the Spokane City Council asked for more time to make a decision about who will be the next Spokane Police chief. Council members said they intended to seek additional applicants, since the remaining two finalists were not enough to make an informed decision. Meidl was not one of the two finalists.
Condon said the community was split between the two finalists chosen by the selection committee and when he looked at feedback he said fit was the most important criteria.
That is why today he chose assistant Chief Craig Meidl to become police chief.
“The Mayor and I discussed this and we discussed the various forums and community outreach that I’ve been involved in. My heart for this city and community and after the discussion and thinking about it and praying about it some more, I just came to the conclusion that I can help move the department forward, as well as help move the community forward, as well,” said Meidl.
Meidl’s daughter place the chief badge on his uniform on Monday morning.
Mayor Condon said Meidl will start as chief immediately. However, according to both the City Charter and City Municipal code, the Mayor’s choice for police chief must be confirmed by the City Council.
“At this point, I will not be seeking confirmation from the council. He serves as the assistant chief now and he will be moved into the position, full chief and we’ll be discussing with the council at a period in the future, it that’s necessary,” said Condon.
“The power to appoint and remove the administrative heads and assistant administrative heads in each department of the City government, provided the appointment of an administrative head shall be subject to the approval of the city council…” reads Section 24 of the city charter.
The municipal code specifically states the City Council should “confirm the appointment by the Mayor of the City Attorney, the City Clerk, and the administrative head in each department and division," confirmed Brian McClatchey, the City Council Policy Advisor.
KREM 2 reached out to several City Council members. They all pointed to the City Charter saying that mayor’s choice has to be confirmed by the City Council.
“Part of the selection committee, chair of public safety, working with Meidl, that is part of the charter that council does approve department heads, so he’s going to have to go through that process,” said Councilwoman Lori Kinnear.
“Whether or not that’d be considered ceremonial or not, that’s not the point. It is definitely outline in the charter that the appointment must be made by the council, so again it will be very interesting to see what the mayor has to say about that,” said Councilman Mike Fagan.
As far as what would happen if Meidl is not confirmed by the City Council, several council members said they would cross that bridge if it comes to that.
At the very least, Councilman Fagan said they could file an ethics complaint if the mayor violates policy.
In a statement, the City said “Unfortunately, he (the mayor) made the difficult decision to not bring Chief Meidl for confirmation at this time out of abundance of caution and concern for him and his career. He would welcome future discussion that leads to his confirmation by the City Council, but what’s to be sure he leaves time, should it be necessary, for the City Council to understand the value Chief Meidl’s tremendous qualifications, leadership, commitment, dedication and – most important to the community – his fit for Spokane.”
One of the finalists who was not selected issued a statement to KREM 2 following the Monday press conference.
“I enjoyed meeting many of the city’s stakeholders during the selection process. I understand the complex, difficult situation faced by the city in replacing your police chief and I appreciate being considered for the challenge,” said Robert Lehner, current Elk Grove police chief. “My very best wishes are with the City of Spokane and the many dedicated men and women that provide policing services to its residents.”
The other candidate for chief was Dominic Rizzi, who is the current chief in Yakima.
Rizzi spoke to KREM 2 News in a phone interview on Monday. He said the Condon called him Monday morning to let him know neither of the top two finalists would be named chief. He said that part alone was quite a shock.
“He said there’s a lot of turmoil going on in the city right now, and he felt that, at this point, it would be best to just let Craig Meidl continue on running the department until everything had settled down in a couple months or so,” said Rizzi.
Rizzi said that based on his conversation with the mayor, he felt naming Meidl as chief might just be a temporary move.
City Council President Ben Stuckart said they would like to speak with the community and have a forum so they can get some input from the public on the mayor’s choice.
Overwhelmingly though, the people that spoke to KREM 2 News said they were surprised by the mayor’s choice, but think Meidl will do a great job as chief.