Policing is the family business of Spokane Interim Chief Justin Lundgren

Policing is the family business of Spokane Interim Chief Justin Lundgren

Justin Lundgren’s first memories of the Spokane Police Department are from home.

Her father comes home for lunch in the middle of his shift, pulling his classic patrol car with a single blue light into the family driveway.

Lundgren and his brothers Nick and Stephen were showing off the car to friends and trying to convince their father to turn on the lights and sirens. Nick Lundgren remembers his father letting him use the PA system to talk to his mother at home.

Decades later, Justin Lundgren, 48, isn’t just a police officer, he leads a 350-officer department as interim police chief. Nick Lundgren is a detective. Their father, Jim Lundgren, welcomes his sons’ retirement, offering advice as they follow in his footsteps.

In 1973, Jim Lundgren had just left the US Navy where he was a mechanic. He had started school to pursue a career as a mechanic when he heard about a hiring boom at the Spokane Police Department ahead of Expo ’74.

He was hired and was on patrol after a day of firearms training. He entered the training academy three months later.

“When you first come in, you’re very excited,” Jim Lundgren said. “It’s a great opportunity to help people.”

He married Judy Lundgren in 1974 and the couple had three sons.

Jim Lundgren was still on patrol when the boys were young and admittedly not around much.

“I’d like to give credit where credit is due,” he said. “He did a great job.”

When Justin Lundgren started high school, his father was promoted to detective. Justin Lundgren said proudly that he was one of the founding members of the major crimes unit.

His father interrupted: “I have just been assigned there.

Justin Lundgren remembers talking with his father about detective work — how suspects would lie and the team used interview tactics to get information from them.

“There was a lot of skill here,” Justin Lundgren said.

As teenagers, his father’s desire to learn the truth kept the boys honest.

“I’d start lying and he’d look at me and say, ‘Don’t lie to me,'” Justin Lundgren recalled. “You can’t get away with much when your father is a homicide detective.”

Justin Lundgren said he watched his father fight “good versus evil” to bring justice to murder victims.

When he graduated from high school, Justin Lundgren began to follow in his father’s footsteps. He studied economics at Washington State University and by the time he graduated, he had already passed the test to join the Spokane Police Department.

He joined the army in 1997 at the age of 22.

Jim Lundgren was supportive, despite several fears — mostly around his son’s safety.

For Justin Lundgren, it was a dream to join the police department where his father still works.

He quickly realized that his daily patrol work had more gray areas than the world of good and evil of the crime detective he had seen as a child.

It was already clear that Nick Lundgren would also join the SPD. Just three years younger than Justin Lundgren, he had volunteered in the department’s Police Intelligence Program since high school.

Seeing his brother join the department “strengthened his determination to become a police officer,” Nick Lundgren said.

He joined the department in 2000 after graduating from Eastern Washington University.

Jim Lundgren served on the same force for three six years before retiring in 2006 after 33 years with the department.

Jim Lundgren said the key to such a long career is change. Every seven years, he took on a new role that challenged him and honed his new skill set.

His sons did the same. Nick Lundgren, now 45, worked on patrol until 2014, when he became a detective.

Justin Lundgren worked in patrol until 2010 when he began overseeing the detective division. She worked in internal affairs for three years before recently retired Chief Craig Meidl asked her to become assistant chief.

He held the position for more than seven years before being asked by Mayor Lisa Brown to serve as interim chief while Meidl hired a permanent replacement.

The ability to effect change is what drew Justin Lundgren to leadership, but he never envisioned being a chief and doesn’t plan to apply for the job permanently.

With eight children between the ages of 2½ and 16, Justin Lundgren and his wife have their hands full.

The manager’s job “takes up so much time” that Justin Lundgren thinks he needs to spend time with his family.

He also thinks the decision not to apply will make the search for a permanent chief easier for Brown, who he said has “really good questions” for the department so far.

“He was very interested in what the department needed,” he said.

He recently shared with Brown an issue with the department’s access to state funds to tow and dispose of abandoned RVs.

“When we brought it to his attention, it was resolved almost immediately,” he said.

While Justin Lundgren is in the role on an interim basis, his chief’s office is making his priorities clear. Family is front and center, from the family photo on the corner of the desk, to the potted plant painted by one of his daughters, to the wooden coat rack made by his father.

For Nick Lundgren, seeing his brother in the role makes sense.

“He’s listening,” she said. “He is not set in his ways. He is ready to listen to people, accept their ideas and change everything if he sees a different position.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct which branch of the military Jim Lundgren served in. He served in the Navy.

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