Craig Meidl named chief of Spokane Police Department

click to enlarge Craig Meidl named chief of Spokane Police Department
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Craig Meidl accepts the appointment as Spokane's chief of police

After nearly one year without a permanent chief at the helm of the Spokane Police Department, Mayor David Condon discarded two candidates identified by an outside consulting firm and named Craig Meidl chief of police. 

Condon says his decision to promote Meidl, who did not apply for the job and was not on the original list of 31 candidates, was based on several conversations with community members. He will not ask for confirmation from the City Council.

"Craig has grown," Condon says. "He has learned from the critical review of the department and understands the community and its needs very clearly. Craig has shown the ability to lead and the wisdom to accept help from others as he needs it."

The move comes a week after an independent investigator's report identified a toxic culture within the police department.

In his interview with the investigator, Meidl described the atmosphere created under ousted Chief Frank Straub: 

"I was in a position where I either had to support some of the untruths that were being said in those meetings as his second, and sacrifice my integrity, or I had to take a stand," he said of his position as assistant chief under Straub.

Ultimately, he demoted himself all the way down to lieutenant at the cost of over $40,000 a year in annual salary. 

"I pledge to admit our mistakes and when we could have done something better, and to be as transparent as I can, while staying within disclosure laws," Meidl said at a press conference Monday. "I will be honest to a fault, never compromise my integrity for the sake of appearance, goodwill or because the message is too difficult to relay. I commit to an open, accountable and accessible police department that is responsive to the community's needs." 

Meidl, who has been with SPD for 22 years, was one of the officers who saluted former SPD Officer Karl Thompson after he was convicted of excessive force in the death of Otto Zehm and lying to cover it up. It's something the new chief has had to answer for ever since.

"It wasn't about Otto Zehm, and it was not meant to insult or cause further harm," Meidl told the Inlander last year. "The intent was to honor this person that we knew differently than how he'd been portrayed. But at the same time, I acknowledge that things should and could have been done differently." 

Condon says he talked with the Zehm family before making the announcement, but did not elaborate. 

As far as any changes to SPD's leadership structure? Meidl was unsure what those will look like, but anticipates making a decision by the end of this week.