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Cd’A police officers support Chief White amid ‘rumblings’

Staff Writer | August 19, 2020 1:09 AM

Members of the community and the Coeur d’Alene Police Department came to Tuesday night’s City Council meeting to voice their support for what turned out to be an embattled Chief Lee White.

“If you look behind me, you’ll see a sea of blue,” Kevin Crayton of Post Falls said before pointing to the back of the library’s community room, where a line of Coeur d’Alene police officers stood in solidarity. “And some of you are probably wondering why these guys are here. That’s because they have a leader that has brought this department more than any leader has in the 20 years I’ve been a resident of this community. These guys are here because they believe in what they do, and they stand with their chief, and they’re making a statement to all of you guys.”

Crayton later said he wanted to support White because he’d heard “rumblings” that he thought should be dispelled.

“Whatever misgivings, or if there’s misinformation out there about people, I think we need to address those,” he told the council. “And I get that there’s information that’s not true, so I wanted to bring that up.”

Johann Schmitz, a patrol lieutenant for the department and president of the Coeur d’Alene Police Officers’ Association, told The Press he came to the council meeting because police departments across the country are enduring a seemingly endless cycle of backlash as protests against police brutality continue in the wake of the George Floyd killing.

“We’re just living in really tough times right now,” Schmitz told The Press. “I know my guys feel the pressure about what’s going on in the world. We have some unique circumstances here in Coeur d’Alene … We have a community that appreciates what we do, and we have a City Council and a mayor that has supported us.”

Moments before his interview with The Press, Schmitz gave an impassioned speech to council during the public comments portion of the evening agenda, in which he stood up for both White and police officers around the country.

“One might ask, ‘Why has our city avoided the pitfalls that have befallen so many others?” Schmitz posed to council. “‘And why do the men and women of the Coeur d’Alene Police Department continue to suit up, day after day, with all that’s going on?’ I believe the answer is simple. It starts with the unwavering support of the people who live in this community.”

Schmitz continued by testifying to the support Mayor Steve Widmyer and the City Council have given the police, saying the department’s success over the years could be traced back to White.

“It ends with the exceptional leadership of Lee White,” Schmitz said. “You brought Chief White here to be a change agent, to make us better at protecting our citizens, and his success in this regard has been unprecedented.”

Council had scheduled at the end of an otherwise-relatively routine City Council meeting an executive session, in which council members and Widmyer were to discuss “the evaluation, dismissal or disciplining of, or to hear complaints or charges brought against, a public officer, employee, staff member or individual agent, and (f) To communicate with legal counsel for the public agency to discuss the legal ramifications of and legal options for pending litigation, or controversies not yet being litigated but imminently likely to be litigated. Councilman Dan Gookin made the motion for the council to move to executive session, but with an unusual caveat at the end.

“… and I’d also like to ask that our police chief be available if we need to call him,” Gookin added.

The room was cleared as council entered into executive session. As of press time, no announcement followed from City Hall. When asked to comment, White deferred to Schmitz for additional remarks.

“Thank you, Chief White, for your unwavering leadership,” Schmitz closed in his public comments to council. “We’ll follow you anywhere.”