The search for Spokane's next police chief is expected to come to an end next week, and it's been a rocky journey to get there. After several finalists dropped out at the last minute and the mayor made a surprise pick, the field was finally narrowed down to four.
They are: acting chief, Craig Meidl, Bob Lehner, the police chief in Elk Grove, Calif., Dominic Rizzi, the police chief in Yakima, Wash., and newcomer to the competition, John Bruce, the police chief in Frisco, Texas.
Tuesday night, all four candidates gathered at the West Central Community Center to make their case for why they would be the best fit for the role of chief at the Spokane Police Department.
But before they could even speak, things got off to a bumpy start. A protester called for more accountability in Spokane's city government.
One candidate applauded the involvement from the community.
“I would much rather have a room full of people screaming at me over what matters to them than an empty room,” said Lehner.
The candidates answered questions submitted by community members. They covered topics like leadership, finance, community engagement and culture. Several questions dealt with the public's perception of the police department.
“Even not knowing what the culture is to an extensive degree, the public perception is that this culture is poisonous,” said Rizzi. “So, we have to step up and we have to make the appropriate changes.”
“I would have to assess exactly what is that culture,” said Bruce. “And in doing so, it's not just by myself, it's with having conversations internally.”
Many of the candidates agreed that it all starts with examples set by the police chief.
“It all starts with the upper echelon of the police department,” said Rizzi. “If the chief isn't ethical and moral and present those values to his officers, why should they follow suit?”
Interim Chief Meidl explained that to build trust from the community the department has to reach out to the community when it's hurting.
“The most important work to do is going to be establishing those relationships, to be transparent, to try and help people work through those issues,” Meidl said.
Meidl also shared he believes in the next five years, the department will have the full support of the city.
Spokane Mayor David Condon is expected to make his pick for police chief next week. That decision will have to be approved by the Spokane City Council.