Frank Straub conducted his first official order of business as the leader of the Spokane Police Department by holding his first media briefing Tuesday afternoon.
Straub stepped away from the podium for an informal Q&A with members of the media and gave some frank answers about his future in local law enforcement, emphasizing over and over again that he feels he is inheriting a quality police department full of dedicated officers.
One thing you shouldn't expect to see from Spokane's new director of law enforcement is any snap decisions. Straub said he wants to study his police department before making many changes.
But his plan to get a sense of how the police department is functioning extends beyond the walls of the Public Safety Building. Straub also says he wants to talk to members of the community, not the regulars at the city council meetings but people from all across Spokane. Back in Indianapolis, he said he used to meet with minority groups at coffee shops.
"I used to go there about once a month in the evening and meet with 10 or 15 people, depending on who showed up, and just have a very low key conversations with coffee and danishes and that gave me a much different perception of the police department," he said.
Straub also touched upon the issue of outfitting his officers with body cameras; he said he'd like to experiment with the recorders but doesn't think they'd really improve accountability.
"You can buy those cameras and if you're not hiring the right people and you're not training them properly and you're not equipping them properly the cameras are only going to give you evidence of something," he said.
Another thing he wants to do is fight for more funding for his department so it can act instead of just react to emergency calls for service.
"We have to have a force that's right-sized that allows us to do proactive work It allows is to do education, allows us to do undercover, allows us to bait-cars, all those types of things to be very strategic in our patrol coverage," he said.
Straub's first day on the job after the city council confirmed his position coincided with one of the darkest days he ever experienced as a law enforcement officer.
"I was in the elevator on my way to police headquarters to hand in my paperwork when the first plane hit," he said.
On Sept. 11, 2001, Straub was a member of the New York Police Department and was just two blocks from the World Trade Center when New York City came under attack.
His first thought was to rush to the scene to help with evacuations.
"We actually pulled a fire lieutenant out of the wreckage of the first tower. Somehow he miraculously made it and was crawling out of the rubble and we were able to pull him out," he said.
When the second plane hit Straub knew the fire and explosions were no accident; World Trade tower workers flooded the street, many of them injured.
"I was with a bunch of friends who were New York City emergency police officers who had just gone into the building and myself and the guy I was with had decided to stay outside to help people who were coming out of the building and it was that decision that literally saved out lives," Straub said.
When the second tower collapsed, Straub and other rescue workers dove under a fire truck to escape the debris raining down on top of them.
"When the second tower came down a fire a fire truck saved my life. I was that close to the tower when it came down," he said.
New Yorkers, Straub included, worked in dangerous conditions that day to save thousands of lives. He said it was a privilege to witness such bravery.
"I think it's really important for the whole country to pause for a moment and remember the lives who were lost. The public safety lives but also he many civilian lives and military lives," Straub said.
In the months following 9/11 Straub designed and implemented a counterterrorism training program to help all NYPD officers guard against another attack.
Straub is heading back to New York to say goodbye to his family and will then begin the long road trip back to Spokane on September 22.