It appears that the year without stability atop the Spokane Police Department will come to a close. During a news conference on Monday, Mayor David Condon announced his choice to lead the city's law enforcement officers: CRAIG MEIDL — again.
"I've gotten to know [Craig Meidl] for the last four and a half years, and he's never led me in the wrong direction," says City Council President Ben Stuckart. "He's always been open and honest with me."
In September 2015, SPD's former Chief Frank Straub was forced out after recurring issues regarding his abrasive and manipulative management style. A permanent replacement remained elusive until now.
In August, Condon unexpectedly nominated Meidl in a decision that skirted a thorough public vetting and interview process. Meidl did not initially apply for the chief's job and did not go through the same process as the two final candidates, but Condon nominated him anyway. Several members of the public and the city council criticized Condon for his decision. Eventually, the mayor agreed to restart the process, bringing back two previous finalists and an additional candidate.
Ultimately, the application reboot didn't sway Condon's opinion. During the announcement, the mayor noted that three of four interview panels unanimously recommended Meidl as chief.
Stuckart, who was highly critical of the mayor's surprise appointment in August, is optimistic this time around. He says the council will vote on the nomination Oct. 10.
"Craig has worked for this department for 22 years, and this is a guy who is well-respected from all ranks," says Officer Tim Schwering, who worked as a director in SPD under Straub and is now in training to be a patrol officer. "He's a genuine person. What you see is what you get."
Asked how Meidl compares to Straub, Schwering says: "You've met Craig, right? Frank had good ideas, but he could have improved on his execution. They couldn't be two more different people." (MITCH RYALS)
OFF THE HOOK
When WSU FOOTBALL player Shalom Luani was arrested for second-degree assault in August, coach Mike Leach quickly questioned the police account of what happened.
Police said that Luani broke a man's nose outside of a Pullman Domino's Pizza on Aug. 24. They said Luani was agitated because his pizza order took too long, that he became "disorderly," and struck a man under the chin who was trying to calm him down. They said a fight ensued outside. Police said that when they arrived, the victim, Kyle Medina, was "bleeding profusely."
Leach disputed that narrative, saying that it sounded like Luani was instead "jumped by three people." Luani reportedly also told police a similar story.
This week, Whitman County Prosecutor Denis Tracy released a letter explaining that Luani would not be charged with assault. In the letter, he says that there is enough evidence to conclude that Luani broke Medina's nose, but that he would not be able to prove to a reasonable jury that Luani wasn't acting in self-defense.
While there wasn't video of the fight outside of Domino's where police say Luani broke Medina's nose, police did release video to the Moscow-Pullman Daily News showing the moment before the fight was taken outside. In the video, Luani makes his way through a crowd of people pushing him to the door, where Medina opens it and grabs Luani in an attempt to escort him out. Luani can be seen clearly striking Medina in the face.
Medina chases him outside, where police say Medina's nose was broken. Luani suffered injuries to his face and a concussion.
Tracy, the prosecutor, said Medina initiated the contact inside Domino's and called Luani's blow to Medina at the doorway a "push" in the face. Tracy concluded that there was enough evidence to charge each of them with "minor assaults," for that encounter, but he said the two men requested that no charges be filed.
Luani was suspended for one Cougars game, the season-opening loss to Eastern Washington. (WILSON CRISCIONE)