Spokane's convoluted process of selecting a new police chief is kicking into high gear again on Tuesday night at the West Central Community Center.
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.
It's fortunate that four qualified men still want to be Spokane's next police chief.
Spokane is a nice city, but we haven't always been nice to our police chief candidates. Hiring a new chief is supposed to be about experience, qualifications and leadership, but this competition has involved a lot of politics.
The last time Spokane tried to hire a new police chief, two of the finalists dropped out at the last minute. Lehner and Rizzi stuck around for the actual interviews, both said they were pretty handy at repairing broken police departments and pledged long-term commitments to Spokane.
“I'm not looking for that next professional challenge,” Rizzi told KXLY4 News in July. “What I'm looking for is where do I want to be the chief of my hometown? Of the town I'm going to live and retire?”
“That commitment, I'm prepared and willing to make and will make it,” Lehner told KXLY4 in July. “Spokane could be, probably be my last chief's position.”
The Spokane City Council wasn't happy with having just two finalists, and in a surprise move called to reopen the search for a new chief.
The bigger surprise came when Spokane Mayor David Condon appointed Craig Meidl as the new chief.
“Sometimes you have to look far and wide to discover that what you are looking for has been with the department the entire time,” Condon said at the chief announcement in August.
The question is, does that mean Mayor Condon doesn't think the original candidates have the right stuff? If, this time, the selection panels give Lehner or Rizzi a thumbs up, will the mayor toss out Meidl? Or, is the only newcomer to the competition, Bruce, a viable tie-breaker?
“I think I'm the right man for the job based on my training, I've been through some great training,” Bruce said on Tuesday. “I've had some great opportunities. I lead a great department and I believe those experiences have set me up to be the next chief in Spokane.”
Both finalists from the last-go around, Rizzi and Lehner, said Tuesday that their feelings were not hurt when the mayor and council passed on them during the first competition. In fact, they said when Mayor Condon appointed Chief Meidl they both thought the mayor was acting in Spokane's best interest, trying to get the police department firing on all cylinders again.
So, just like last time, the four selection panels and members of the public will funnel their feedback about these finalists to the mayor and it will be up to David Condon to offer one of them the job.
Whoever that gentleman is, he will still need to be confirmed by the city council.