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Spokane police chief Meidl will step down at end of year

Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl.
screen capture from a City of Spokane video
Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl.

Spokane Police Department Chief Craig Meidl will resign at the end of 2023, capping a nearly thirty-year tenure in city law enforcement.

In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, Meidl said “It is time to close this chapter of my career.” Meidl thanked his family, Mayor Nadine Woodward, the people of SPD, and the community for support.

Meidl’s resignation announcement did not specify why he is leaving, or what he will do next. His planned last day, December 31, coincides with that of Woodward. The chief and the mayor have often allied on public issues, including homelessness, safety downtown, and criticizing the Spokane City Council for its funding and priority choices.

Calling Meidl “a champion for public safety in Spokane neighborhoods and statewide,” Woodward said in a statement the chief’s departure leaves a “huge void” in the department and in the city.

“No one has been more committed to his community and the Spokane Police Department,” Woodward said. “Spokane has big shoes to fill.”

It will fall to Woodward’s successor, Mayor-Elect Lisa Brown, to find a new police chief. In a statement Wednesday, Brown said she will meet soon with Meidl and Assistant Chief Justin Lundgren to hear their thoughts about public safety in Spokane.

“The Chief of Police is an incredibly challenging job that requires dedication and sacrifice. I want to thank Chief Meidl for the 30 years of service he has given to our community,” Brown said.

Meidl wished Brown “success in continuing the ongoing journey to make Spokane a safe and healthy city.”

Former Spokane Mayor David Condon promoted Meidl to police chief in 2016. Since then, Meidl has led the department through changing times for law enforcement, including a long-running struggle to hire and retain qualified officers and the police reform movement of 2020. Meidl criticized state-level laws that emerged after the murder of George Floyd, saying they hampered law enforcement’s ability to fight crime.

Earlier this year, an ombudsman's investigation revealed Meidl shared police reports and crime data with Chud Wendle and other local business leaders and property owners. The information shared in those emails typically would be released through a public records request, and then only after being reviewed by a specially-trained officer and edited to redact sensitive information.

Local activists and some city council members said Meidl’s sharing showed a pattern of favoritism toward wealthy and well-connected people. The information was requested to bolster the group’s arguments about crime, visible homelessness and safety downtown, according to The Inlander.

The Spokane City Council asked Woodward to open an investigation into Meidl’s conduct. Woodward refused, dismissing the request as a political move designed to attack police. In April she told reporters she supported what she characterized as Meidl’s engagement with concerned community members. In June, the council voted to expand the police ombudsman’s investigative powers to include Meidl’s office.

In March 2022, Meidl accused Spokane Public Schools of failing to report threats or abuse, as required under Washington law. In a letter to the school district, Meidl did not offer specific examples, saying he drew his conclusions from reviewing police reports and speaking with an unnamed SPS staffer. The school system defended its training and adherence to the law, and said Meidl did not bring his concerns to the district’s attention before issuing the letter.

Despite the tension between Meidl and the city council, the legislative body consistently funded the police department’s requests. During Meidl’s tenure as chief, SPD’s budget has risen from $57 million to $72.9 million. This year, police funding makes up a third of the city’s general fund spending. This summer, city councilors unanimously approved a four-year police union contract that includes pay and benefit increases aimed at recruitment and retention.

City Council President Lori Kinnear said Wednesday she was saddened to learn of Meidl’s decision to step down.

“When I served as the Public Safety chair for the Council, we worked closely to lower property crime and create better relationships with the community,” Kinnear wrote in a statement. “The chief handled the many challenges the police department faced in the last three years professionally. I wish him well in his next endeavor. He can indeed feel good about his contributions to our city.”

Brandon Hollingsworth is your All Things Considered host. He has served public radio audiences for fifteen years, primarily in reporting, hosting and interviewing. His previous ports-of-call were WUOT-FM in Knoxville, Tennessee, and Alabama Public Radio. His work has been heard nationally on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Here and Now and NPR’s top-of-the-hour newscasts.