In the end, the only choice
"In the circumstances," Everett Police Chief Jim Scharf wrote in a letter last week informing Meade that he was being fired, "escalation from the Taser to a deadly weapon in 21 seconds is unfathomable."
And so finally, more than two years after Meservey was killed, after the city paid his family $500,000 to settle a lawsuit, after Meade had collected nearly $185,000 on paid leave, and after the city has spent another $750,000 in legal fees, Meade has been terminated for "unacceptable misconduct."
The final step in the process leading to that decision was a long-delayed internal investigation. It followed a criminal trial in which a jury acquitted Meade of second-degree murder, but under a lower legal standard also found that he did not act in self-defense.
Scharf has said he decided to hold off on an internal probe until after the civil case was over, in fairness to Meade. Now that the investigation is complete, it's clearer than ever that Meade's use of deadly force was not justified. Termination was the only choice.
This should mark the end of this long, sad saga. Meade, however, can still ask the Everett Police Officers Association, to challenge his firing. Union leaders aren't saying whether they're considering such action, but we strongly urge them not to go there. In the termination letter, Scharf details several options Meade failed to consider before resorting to deadly force, including simply stepping behind a nearby SUV to eliminate any chance that he would be struck if Meservey's car moved.
The union would tarnish its own credibility if it attempted to defend the indefensible. It also would needlessly put the city to further expense in arbitration, and keep a dark cloud hovering over the department.
Scharf's nine-page termination letter to Meade is detailed and thorough. The chief bent over backwards -- too far for many -- to be fair to Meade. He reached the right conclusion and took the only proper action.
Now the chief can begin a retirement that he delayed in order to finish dealing with this case. He leaves with a long and distinguished record in law enforcement, one for which he deserves the gratitude of Everett and Snohomish County, having served the latter as sheriff from 1988-95.
The final major decision he made as chief may have been too long in coming, but it was the right call.
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