by Jacob Jones
In another major shake-up of the command structure at the Spokane Police Department, Chief Frank Straub has reorganized department divisions, shuffled supervisory roles and proposed bringing in a veteran DEA agent to serve as a new civilian director over the Investigations division.
Selby Smith, most recently an assistant special agent in charge with the Drug Enforcement Administration, has been nominated by Straub to take over the new director position. Smith's appointment goes before the Spokane City Council on Monday.
Smith, 50, has worked for the DEA since 1988, first joining after a short stint in the U.S. Air Force, according to his DEA biography. In 1994, Smith transferred to Spokane, where he worked for the next 12 years. He later spent about two years as Director of the Inter-agency Operations Coordination Center in Kabul, Afghanistan.
In Kabul, Smith reportedly "coordinated all counter-narcotic operations" throughout the country between DEA, NATO and U.S. combat forces. His most recent assignment brought him back to Spokane to oversee DEA operations in Eastern Washington and Idaho.
SPD spokeswoman Monique Cotton says Smith brings a broad understanding of the "business of drugs" to Spokane law enforcement. As a civilian SPD director, Smith would manage investigative resources and big-picture strategy with a focus on drug trafficking.
"Drugs fuel much of the crime in Spokane," Cotton says. "By targeting drugs, we really think we can make an impact."
Smith would also be expected to reinvigorate the SPD's engagement with the Regional Drug Task Force, which Cotton describes as "not as active as we'd like." Smith's experience with asset forfeiture — the police seizure of ill-gotten property, which is then sold to pay for police operations — would also go toward expanding the SPD's local forfeiture efforts.
Cotton says the starting salary for the new director position is expected to be approximately $100,000 a year.
The new director position fits into a new — and still evolving — vision for the command structure at the Spokane Police Department. The most recent reorganization has shifted much of the executive staff to civilian directors and swapped supervisors in several areas.
"It's finding the right people to be in the right positions at the right time," Cotton says.
Straub made similarly dramatic changes in December of 2012, when he replaced majors with new commander positions. Cotton says both the commander positions have recently been eliminated.
Former Cmdr. Brad Arleth has moved to a lower captain position, heading up the Investigations division. Former Cmdr. Joe Walker has returned to a lieutenant position. Cotton says Capt. Dan Torok has shifted from Investigations to now overseeing the Patrol division.
At one point, Cotton pauses to double-check the "latest" diagram of the new command structure, saying, "It's still in the works." But she says the hope is for the new structure to be more horizontal with fewer "trickle down" delays in communication and collaboration.
In addition to the structural changes, Assistant Chief Craig Meidl also recently left his position as second-in-charge at the department to return to a civil service-level rank of lieutenant. No reason has been released regarding that decision.
Cotton says Straub hopes to fill that high-profile position by promoting someone else from within the department. (UPDATE: Possibly Capt. Rick Dobrow, who now oversees Internal Affairs.)
"It will be filled within the coming weeks," she says.