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Big Blue Shakeup 

Spokane's new police chief raises eyebrows; plus, WSU suspension news

click to enlarge Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl's department is undergoing a change in the command structure that includes his wife Tracie Meidl working for Internal Affairs.
  • Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl's department is undergoing a change in the command structure that includes his wife Tracie Meidl working for Internal Affairs.

SPOKANE POLICE REORG

A major shake-up in the Spokane Police Department's COMMAND STRUCTURE is the first since its former chief was ousted more than a year ago.

One of the changes among police brass includes putting Lt. Tracie Meidl — police chief Craig Meidl's wife — in charge of investigations of alleged officer misconduct in Internal Affairs.

The new position means that Tracie Meidl will roll back to lieutenant after former Law Enforcement Director Jim McDevitt promoted her to captain on his way out the door this past summer.

Craig Meidl was not involved in any decisions regarding Tracie Meidl's new position. Instead, that decision was made by a panel of city police and human resources employees.

As the lieutenant in charge of Internal Affairs, Tracie Meidl will oversee investigations of alleged misconduct and complaints against officers. The city's human resources department handles complaints against the chief, according to city law.

However, there will be three degrees of separation between the Meidls — including a civilian director of strategic initiatives, who has not yet been hired.

"I think biggest problem is the perception," say Lt. Dave McCabe, president of the Lieutenants and Captains Association. "There is some separation between Lt. Meidl and Chief Meidl, but ultimately the chief is her boss. So I think the perception is going to be a lot worse than what is actually going on."

Asst. Chief Justin Lundgren will handle all disciplinary decisions not involving suspension, demotion or termination, Lundgren says.

"In the event that Lt. Meidl was the subject of a complaint, the authority to discipline would be passed to the Mayor," he adds.

Other changes include rotations among SPD captains in order to get each of the men a variety of experience, Lundgren says. The changes take effect Dec. 4. (MITCH RYALS)

PROCEDURAL ERROR AT WSU

Washington State University is already conducting an independent review of its STUDENT CONDUCT PROCESS in the wake of the uproar over the suspension of a football player. Now, students who have already been suspended or expelled this year may catch a break.

Last week, a Whitman County Superior Court judge granted a stay of WSU football player Robert Barber's suspension because WSU's student conduct board did not keep a record of questions Barber asked in a hearing. Barber was suspended for allegedly punching a student twice during a party — including once after that student was unconscious on the ground. Barber returned to practice the same day as the ruling, in time to play in WSU's loss at Colorado on Saturday.

But the judge's ruling also means that WSU will look at other recent cases where the error could have been made, and if they find the error, the school will reinstate the suspended students pending a new hearing, says President Kirk Schulz in a statement.

That benefits WSU linebacker Logan Tago, who was told he can now return to class after a suspension earlier this school year, the Seattle Times reports. Tago, however, can't return to the field like Barber, since Tago has been charged with felony robbery, and WSU rules prohibit athletes charged with a felony from representing the school.

The reopening of cases that may have involved a procedural error is in addition to the external review of the conduct process by Lyons O'Dowd, a Coeur d'Alene law firm hired to examine alleged racial bias in conduct board decisions. Schulz says the school has planned an in-depth look at the entire student conduct process, and says he would like to create a "nationally recognized best-in-class student conduct process."

"The entire WSU leadership is of a single mind: We will do whatever it takes to make certain that all of our students are treated fairly in their dealings with the University," Schulz says. (WILSON CRISCIONE)

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