Top Three Candidates Interview for Spokane's Chief Job

SPOKANE, Wash. -- If Spokane Mayor David Condon had a front-runner for the City's Police Chief position Wednesday, he certainly wasn't revealing it. After a day of public interviews for three candidates vying for Spokane's top cop position, Condon said all three men are well received and qualified for the job.

Daniel Mahoney of San Francisco, CA; George Markert of Rochester, N.Y.; and Frank Straub of Indianapolis, IN answered a series of questions, in individual interviews, that ranged from how the candidates would restore public confidence in the police department to how they would handle issues that arose in the mental health community.

The first candidate to be interviewed was Daniel Mahoney, Commanding Officer of the Ingleside Police Station within the San Francisco Police Department, home to 123,000 people. Mahoney focused on building trust right away within the Spokane Police Department and the community at large.

"It's not public entitlement; It's public service," Mahoney said. "You do the right thing for the right reason when no one is looking."

Mahoney also said he wanted to implement a "Comp-Stat" or comparative statistics program at the police department, which would use data to determine criminal hot spots and then focus police efforts on those spots. If selected as chief, Mahoney emphasized building up relationships within his department right away.

"In 30 days, I would have met with all the officers or as many as I could. I would have put out a newsletter talking to everyone about what my vision is, where we see the future of the Spokane Police Department and where I want to take the department. At the same time, I would attend as many neighborhood council meetings as humanely possible."

He added, that he would likely be at Riverfront Park or throwing the first pitch at a baseball game. "The chief needs to be seen. You don't work 8 to 5, you can't sit behind your desk."

Mahoney spent the last three decades in the San Francisco Police Department and in 2011 was one of three finalists to lead the San Francisco Police. He does not have any ties to this area but does have some family in the northwest.

The second candidate interviewed was George Markert who currently serves as the Director of the Office of Public Integrity for Rochester, NY. Before that he was second in command at the department, otherwise known as the Executive Deputy Chief for the Rochester Police Department. In his interview, he touted that he'd brought the crime rate down in Rochester to the lowest it's been in 25 years.

Markert described his reputation as "Straight forward and honest. What you see is what you get." Later, when asked how he would work with the media, Markert gave a similar answer saying he would "be honest and direct."

Like Mahoney, the first question asked of him was how he would restore trust in the department. Markert emphasized building healthy relationships with the department and the community within the first month on the job.

"A chief sets the tone for the organization, so I'm asking you without knowing me, to trust me to do that and trust that I set the right tone, that I will make sure the proper relationships are built and maintained and that everyone receives service and respect they deserve," Markert said.

Markert added that he would work hard to build that trust within the first 30 days.

"The first 30 days will probably be a blur," he said. "That is the time that you need to be out and meeting as many people as you can, establishing those relationships which are just so important to establish future success for the community. The first 30 days is just about building relationships."

Markert said that within 60 days, he should have a good understanding of what the city's issues are as well the department's shortcomings are in order to address all the respective issues. By a year's time, Markert believed he would be fixing corrections and building a strategic plan to ensure that mistakes are not repeated.

Markert spoke at length about ongoing training for police officers to prevent problems in the community as well as on a policy level. He explained how his department had specially trained officers to respond to those in the mental health community.

"If we get to the point where we're firing somebody, then somebody along the way didn't do their job," he said.

The Rochester candidate was also a proponent of civilian oversight. "Community oversight is not for me to decide. It's the community's decision and the police department's responsibility to adhere to that."

Markert said he feels he has given everything he could to the Rochester Police Department and now wants to offer his experience to a new city. "I feel like it's the right move. I feel like I have something to offer the community."

The last candidate interviewed was Frank G. Straub, Director of Public Safety in Indianapolis, IN. He was also the former Commissioner of the City of White Plains, NY's Department of Public Safety.

If selected to be chief, Straub said he wanted to be a "chief cheerleader" by highlighting the department's good qualities so that the city would really embrace the department. To do that, he said, he knows he would focus on learning about the department's strengths and weaknesses.

"The first 30 to 60 days has to be about listening, listening to the department and listening to the community. And do that, you really have to be omnipresent. Get to know department, community and their concerns. You have to be engaged as much as possible." he said.

Straub also said he favors getting officers out of their cars and back in businesses and neighborhoods. "I think you have to be in the churches, the synagogues and the mosques on a regular basis."

In Indianapolis, Straub turned in his resignation after more than a year of criticism over Indianapolis Police Department's handling of evidence in a fatal crash involving an officer. The Indianapolis' Mayor's Office said Straub will remain in position until August during a search for his replacement. Straub may not have been asked to resign but it is clear he was facing mounting pressure from the police union and the city county council.

So why Spokane?

The Spokane Mayor's Office had previously said that Mayor Condon and Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard met at the mayor's convention. It was at that time that mayor Ballard suggested Straub to Condon. Political insiders said Condon personally reached out to Straub to apply for the police chief job.

In his interview Wednesday, Straub made it clear that he wasn't afraid to take criticism and that he learned from his mistakes.

"You have to find the biggest critics of the police department and engage them in the process; you can't run away from your critics. Instead you have to engage them and listen to their concerns," he said.

Also on Wednesday, Straub seemed happy to have the chance to call Spokane home. He said Spokane's appeal was that "you can put your arms around" the city and see direct impacts when change is implemented.

"I have one last stop that I want to make," he added. "I want the Spokane Police Department to be what it should be."

The candidates now have a better shot at claiming the job since the fourth finalist dropped out of the running just one day before the interviews. On Tuesday, Blair Ulring, the retired police chief from Stockton, CA, withdrew his name from the running for "personal reasons," according to a city spokesperson following a Spokesman-Review article that questioned his academic credentials. KHQ's calls to Ulring for more information were not immediately returned Tuesday.

The candidates sat across from interviewers Jonathan Mallahan, the Director of Community and Neighbor Services, as well as Joan Butler, Chairwoman of the City's Police Advisory Committee. The interviews were held inside the city council chambers before a small, scattered crowd of citizens and members of the police advisory committee. Throughout the day, several panels judged how each of the candidates answered the questions. The scores and observations will help guide Mayor Condon's final decision.

The mayor also told KHQ that he was confident, of the three men who interviewed, one of them would become chief. However, he followed that up by saying that if the rest of his advisory panels or community were unsatisfied with the final selections, that he would start the chief search over again.

Mayor Condon hopes to announce who will be the next chief of police in August.

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