The decision to place Assistant Spokane Police Chief Scott Stephens on paid administrative leave more than two months ago was based on erroneous assertions that he’d become so upset over his demotion that he was threatening workplace violence, an attorney said today.
Stephens’ attorney, Bob Dunn of Spokane, said the assertions are false but that Police Chief Frank Straub and Mayor David Condon are using the allegation to ruin the veteran officer’s reputation in an attempt to force him out of the department. The alleged threats were relayed to city officials by a member of the police department who claimed the assistant chief told her that he “was going home to get his weapon,” Dunn said.
Stephens served as interim chief for nine months last year until he was replaced by Straub on Oct. 1. After that, Stephens was assistant chief.
Sometime in December, Stephens was informed that he would be demoted to captain, a position ranked below assistant chief and the newly created position of commander.
Dunn said after he was told about the demotion, Stephens had a private conversation with a friend who works within the department.
“The story is that this friend went to (newly appointed Assistant Chief Craig) Meidl and Straub and indicated that Stephens was so distraught that he was going to go home and get his weapon,” Dunn said.
Dunn declined to name the colleague. He said that Stephens told her that he felt betrayed and that he felt “he was a victim of the politics of the mayor’s office and police department.” Dunn said Stephens made no threats.
Based on the allegation, though, Straub placed Stephens, a 27-year veteran of the force, on leave on Dec. 20, Dunn said.Remember how Straub falsely blamed three high-ranking police officers here for the David Bisard fiasco as an excuse to demote cops he didn't believe were loyal to him, a fact later admitted by then-Chief Paul Ciesielski? Ron Hicks and John Conley were just this past week restored to higher positions within IMPD by new IMPD Chief Rick Hite after Straub had busted them to the rank of captain.
Mayor Condon was forced by this latest disclosure to name a retired federal judge to head up an investigation to determine the circumstances that led up to Stephens being placed on administrative leave. Straub had forced Stephens to undergo psychological evaluation during his leave. Later, Straub agreed to let him return to work as a lieutenant reporting directly to Straub performing "unspecified duties" according to the news story. Stephens, who had not been a candidate for police chief, had been a part of a panel that had urged a new search after Straub had been named as one of the finalists. Stephens believes Straub was simply retaliating against him for his role on the search panel for a new police chief. Perhaps Chief Straub is the one who should be forced to undergo a mandatory psychological evaluation. These folks in Spokane can't say they weren't warned in advance about Straub's ways.