SPOKANE, Wash. - Finding a new police chief has proved to be quite the challenge for the Lilac City.
With finalists dropping out of the race at the last minute then a surprise appointment by the Mayor and now the pool is back to four.
The four finalists vying for the job are: Craig Meidl, the acting chief of the Spokane Police Department, Bob Lehner, the Chief of Police in Elk Grove, Calif., Dominic Rizzi, the Chief of Police in Yakima, Wash., and, the newcomer to the competition, John Bruce, Chief of Police in Frisco, Texas.
Tuesday night, a heckler interrupted the forum before any of the 4 candidates answered any questions...
"This is a farce! We have no accountability!" he yells.
"Sit down!" a lady seated in front of him shouts.
"Thank you, sir, you have been heard. Sir give us a chance to do this," say the moderators. He was escorted out.
"The community engagement in Spokane is a strength. I would much rather have a room of people screaming at me than an empty room," says Lehner.
George McGrath was among the dozens of community members at the West Central Community Center gymnasium. In a new format, written questions were sent in, randomly selected then read off by moderators, Dr. Joe Albert, Co-founder of Gonzaga University's Comprehensive Leadership Program and Rachelle Strawther, CLP Program coordinator. The questions focused on leadership, finance, community engagement and culture.
"How would you assess the current department culture?" asked Strawther.
"With even not knowing what the culture is, the public perception is that the culture is poisonous so we have to step up and make the appropriate changes," says Rizzi.
The candidates were then asked how they plan to screen out racially biased police officers.
"It begins with the hiring process. It's about getting a good background in the first place," says Bruce.
"There a lot of things we need to bring it to an understanding of what they are doing it and why they are doing it," says Rizzi.
They shared where they see the Spokane Police Department in 5 years.
"Well, I think in less than 5 years, we will have a community very supportive of us," says Meidl.
"Coming in, you have to be strong. You have to lead the way," says Rizzi.
While McGrath and attendees diasgree on how the forum was formatted.
"I thought that the set up for it was lousy. All the questions had to be written out and it seemed controlling. I wasn't real impressed tonight," McGrath says.
"I thought it went great. I like that they took questions from the community. I liked this format much better than ones we've had," says Spokane citizen, Julie Amsbury.
They agree Spokane's next Police Chief needs to be a true leader.
"Spokane needs a Chief who can first of all control the emotions of police force," says McGrath.,
"They seem like they all have a lot of experience. Spokane needs somebody to build the reputation and bond. We probably will find that with any of these candidates," says Amsbury.
It's likely the Mayor will select a new Chief in the coming days. However, that choice must be approved by the City Council.