Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich is used to his critics, but challenger Doug Orr – a fellow Republican and longtime Spokane Police detective – has a long list of grievances. Knezovich has held the office since 2006, was re-elected with opposition in 2010.
The sheriff’s office is contracted to provide law-enforcement services to the city of Spokane Valley.
How long have you lived in Spokane County? Since 2003
Why did you decide to file for election at this time? I simply believe we can do better.
It’s time to stop reacting and start responding at a deeper community level.
Citizens expect the sheriff to follow the law when it comes to firing employees and not blame arbiters for his own mistakes.
Citizens expect the sheriff to advocate for more deputies, not a new racetrack. Citizens expect that inmates, even the most offensive to us, would receive their medications in a timely fashion without costly lawsuits. Citizens expect to see fewer jails built as crime continues to fall across our nation.
But not in Spokane County. Here, my opponent suggests in a recent debate that “it’s not about the law” when it comes to firing employees. When an inmate failed to receive medication in jail, my opponent didn’t “believe that it is that big of an issue.” My opponent says, “Criminal justice reform hinges on having a jail bed available to hold offenders accountable.”
Bigger jails, less crime? Nothing could be further from the truth.
The sheriff is the chief law enforcement executive and conservator of peace for the county.
I’m running for the office of sheriff because I believe we can restore the community’s trust when it comes to public safety.
Why should voters choose you over your opponent? We need more sheriff and less politician. Leadership is about trust. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Almost 20 years ago, I intentionally decided to be a very different criminal justice leader. I chose to combine real world law-enforcement experience and a world-class education.
I invested seven and a half years into graduate school. I earned a masters degree from Gonzaga University in organizational leadership. I continued on to earn a Ph.D. in criminal justice from Washington State University. If that wasn’t enough, I later earned a master’s in business administration from Saint Leo University.
I turned that knowledge into influence.
I am one of only 12 leaders in the nation selected to teach leaders from around the world at the U.S. Department of State’s International Law Enforcement Academy. I was selected by the National Institute of Justice to serve on the Firearms and Violence Panel to review prospective firearms research.
I’ve earned the trust of public safety professionals. The Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs, over 4,500 members strong, has endorsed me. Firefighter and correctional associations have endorsed me. And most telling, my opponent’s own employees, the Spokane County Deputy Sheriffs Association, have endorsed me.
No other candidate in Spokane County history has ever taken this endorsement away from a sitting sheriff. No other candidate in Spokane County history has the education that I do. No other candidate in Spokane County history has lead in a national capacity as I have.
I intend to move the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office into the 21st century in a capacity that no other sheriff has been able to do.
What issues do you feel are most pertinent to the sheriff's office going into the next four years? At the top of the list is an immediate implementation of a “front to back” police oversight/ombudsman office. After many years of watching other agencies do this, my opponent is only now talking about it during election season. It is embarrassing that Spokane County sits idly by and does nothing while others make great strides in restoring trust and pride to our community. I plan to offer the Spokane community an answerable model where citizens have a front seat to not only how the police investigate the police, but also how the police hire the police.
I will involve the community in talks about how we handle the privacy issues that come along with body cameras. As misconduct is an infrequent event, I am more concerned with how this information will be used for or against citizens. Privileged, private, and intimate conversations never before revealed to the public through written police reports will be now be recorded for all to see and hear. I will ensure we uphold the Constitution and protect your right to privacy.
More than 40 deputies can retire today. More than 90 are eligible to retire in five years. This amounts to nothing less than a personnel tsunami. The amount of human capital leaving the sheriff’s office will require a thoughtful and very managed departure while hiring the most honest and very brightest applicant.
Most importantly, I plan to change the culture and atmosphere of the agency. I’ll set the tone by taking department letterheads and reduce the size of the sheriff’s name so it is smaller than the size of the department’s name to embody the character that the office of sheriff should project to its employees.
What, if anything, would you like to see change with regard to the law-enforcement contract with the city of Spokane Valley? I plan to seek an independent evaluation of performance, not one generated from inside the sheriff’s office. A research institution with experience in dealing with contemporary measures of police performance will conduct this evaluation. This evaluation will include a community survey as well as an employee survey. These results will be presented to the Spokane Valley City Council for open debate. Good policy is built on evidence-based knowledge, supported by training, and enforced by an accountability mechanism. Everyone will be on the same page.
My role in this regard is to provide the citizens of Spokane Valley with the most efficient and most effective model available to them. Trust is contingent on my ability to provide an honest picture of what that might be.
What surprising issues are people bringing up as you door-knock or meet folks at campaign stops? More than half of the households I visited told me of their personal property crime struggle. When I tell them that my opponent says that property crime is going down, most stare in disbelief. Regardless of periodic and unsustainable drops in property crime, as a whole, property crime has continued to climb in Spokane County over the past eight years while it has declined in many areas across the country. We must respect the research in this area and focus on the criminal and not the crime.
To do this, I will implement two methods of property crime control. The first will be a targeted repeat offender model for street officers. The second will be a burglary offender profile model that has been shown to increase clearance rates 400 percent.
Most of all, many citizens mention to me that they are concerned with the militarization of our local police forces. I wholeheartedly believe we must keep pace with the resources available to the criminal. Wielding these resources, however, in a way that causes fear in the hearts of local taxpayers or makes the local citizen question how law enforcement plans to use non-criminal information on citizens deeply concerns me. I pledge to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law.
Somewhere along the way, we became known as “law enforcement” and we forgot that we were once called “peace officers.” Since the Washington Revised Code (RCW) calls the sheriff the “conservator of peace,” I pledge that a return to the idea of peace officer will begin with me.
How long have you lived in Spokane County? 18 years
Why did you decide to file for re-election at this time? I have a great passion for our community and feel that I have many more ideas that will continue to make our community a safe place to live.
Why should voters choose you over your opponent? Proven leadership is the issue that sets me apart from my opponent. From the time I entered the United States Army and throughout my law-enforcement career I have been placed in leadership positions. My opponent is a city of Spokane Police detective and has never held a leadership position nor has he ever led even a small law-enforcement unit.
My leadership has resulted in the lowest violent crime rates in the past 20 years. Since 2007, violent crime rates have been reduced 43 percent in jurisdictions policed by the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office. The property crimes rate has been reduced 7 percent since 2004. These decreases are a result of the sheriff’s office implementing our Intelligence Lead Policing model and the establishment of our regional violent crimes and gang unit. Our Intelligence Led Policing model focuses on not only where crime is being committed but also on those who are committing those crimes and how they are being committed. Using this model lead to a 22-percent decrease in burglaries between 2012 and 2013.
Since 2006 we have also become known as one of the best law enforcement training agencies in the state. Over 18,000 law-enforcement personnel from around the world have been trained at the Spokane County Sheriff's Office training center. This training concept has saved the residents of Spokane County approximately $3.5 million in training costs and has had an Estimated Economic Impact of $4.5 Million in our local community. I believe that training = professionalism.
In 2008, under my leadership, the county combined both the Spokane County Jail and Geiger Corrections under the Sheriff’s Office creating a more efficiently run corrections system. Prior to this both the jail and Geiger corrections were running nearly $1 million to $500,000 over budget. By changing staffing hours at the jail the jail went from being $970,000 over budget in 2008 to a nearly $500,000 under budget in 2009.
Recently the Spokane Deputy Sheriff’s Association stated that I have too high of moral standards. They made this statement as a result of my terminating a deputy that had sex on duty. They are also upset with me because in 2013 and 2014 I, and every sheriff in the state of Washington, sponsored legislation that simply stated that if an arbitrator found that a sheriff or chief followed due process, had just cause and proved that a law-enforcement officer committed a crime on duty or lied concerning their duties, the arbitrator could not reverse the Chief or Sheriff’s disciplinary decision. I, as do all my peers, believe that there must be high standards in our profession. When we in law enforcement violate those standards it destroys the most important thing we need to do our job, and that is the public’s trust. My opponent opposes this legislation. Leadership is being willing to maintain high standards and hold those who have the power to endorse you accountable.
What issues do you feel are most pertinent to the sheriff's office going into the next four years? There are three issues going into the next four years that need to be addressed in order to keep our community safe and crime levels down:
- Sheriff’s Office staffing levels: Since 2008 the sheriff’s office has lost 34 deputy positions from our unincorporated division due to the economy. This has resulted in staffing levels equal to those of the early 1990s. According to the county’s 2006 comprehensive plan the sheriff’s office should have hired 75 new deputy positions between 2006 and 2015 in order for our staffing levels to stay consistent with the county’s estimated population increase. Instead 34 deputy positions were cut due to the great recession. This has resulted in very dangerous staffing levels within the sheriff’s office. Contrary to what my opponent stated in the Spokesman-Review, Spokane County’s revenues are not sufficient to address hiring any additional deputies at this time. This issue must be addressed in order for the sheriff’s office to address the crime issues within Spokane County.
- Technology: We must ensure that the new Computer Aided Dispatch/ Records Management System is purchased this year. Failure to do so will not only make it impossible for Spokane County but the city of Spokane and the city of Spokane Valley to accurately see where crime is being committed in our community and develop real time strategies to deal with crime trends as they are happening. Failure to upgrade this system will also lead to area law enforcement’s inability to report crime under the new National Incident Based Reporting System. Failure to be NIBRS-compliant will jeopardize our ability to meet the national standards for reporting crime and our ability to qualify for federal public safety monies.
- Jail overcrowding and the implementation of the SMART Justice strategies contained in the Criminal Justice Commission’s Blue Print for Reform: In order to help streamline and make the criminal justice system more efficient all of the partners within the criminal justice system have to commit to the implantation of the reforms outline in the Blue Print for Reform commissioned by the Board of County Commissioners and Mayor Condon. Implementation of these reforms and SMART Justice practices will help reduce the costs of our criminal justice system, help reduce some of our Jail overcrowding issues, and establish a system of accountability for those who choose to commit crimes in our community. In order for these SMART Justice practices to work we must deal with our jail system’s overcrowding problem. The Spokane County Jail needs to be upgraded and Geiger Corrections needs to be replaced. SMART Justice practices depend on one thing to work, and that is an empty jail bed. You must have a place to put those who violate the terms and conditions of their programming in order to hold them accountable.
What, if anything, would you like to see change with regard to the law-enforcement contract with the city of Spokane Valley? The law enforcement contract with the city of Spokane Valley is built on trust and a great partnership. We meet often with the city manager and discuss the contract on a regular basis in order to work out issues as they arise and before they become a problem. As it stands, there is nothing I would change in reference to the contract.
What surprising issues are people bringing up as you door-knock or meet folks at campaign stops? There really have not been any surprising issues being brought up by people I speak to. The three top issues are:
- Police accountability: People are really upset with our Legislature for not passing the bill that I and all 38 other sheriffs in the state of Washington have tried to pass over the past two years. They thank me for having the courage to stand up for high standards and for holding those who work for the sheriff’s office to those standards.
- Property Crimes: People are tired of seeing repeat offenders arrested and not held accountable for the crimes they commit. They understand that the Sheriff’s Office has done a great job of reducing the property crimes rate by 7 percent and the violent crimes rate by 43% in the jurisdictions we provide police services to. This being said, people are frustrated by the number of times a criminal can commit crimes in our community, be arrested and then not be held accountable for those crimes.
- A solution for jail overcrowding: People are also tired of criminals not being held in jail due to jail overcrowding. They understand that the Spokane County Jail needs to be upgraded and that Geiger Corrections needs to be replaced. They understand the need and continually ask when is this issue going to be resolved.