While the Spokane Valley City Council made no additional moves Tuesday night in regard to a proposed independent police oversight committee, the concept did receive support from four community members.
The public comments came in the wake of a recent proposal by Council Member Ed Pace that Spokane Valley should have its own committee overseeing the work of the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, which provides the city’s law enforcement via contract.
If the city doesn’t form its own police force, critics say, it should at least have more of a say in how the sheriff conducts its business in Spokane Valley.
“The only layer of government is the one right here,” Scott Maclay, a local real estate agent and frequent critic of Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, said. “The sheriff’s says he can (provide law enforcement) cheaper than we can do it. How can that be?”
Knezovich says that his department is already overseen by a 17-member committee, along with the county prosecutor, state attorney general, Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. He has also offered Spokane Valley two vacant seats on the county Sheriff’s Citizen Advisory Board.
But Maclay said the sheriff “runs that board” and that Spokane Valley citizens deserve more local control.
“Go the distance and put the city of Spokane Valley first,” Maclay said.
Pace proposes the committee be made up of three to five Spokane Valley residents and a mix of council members, police officers and a volunteer attorney from the Center for Justice. All would be appointed by the mayor with the council’s blessing.
Alan Creach – whose father, Wayne Scott Creach, was killed by a former Spokane Valley Police officer in 2010 – said there is “a desperate need” for the city to have an independent oversight committee.
Spokane Valley Mayor Rod Higgins joined Knezovich in a press conference two weeks ago reaffirming the city’s commitment to continuing its contract with the sheriff. Concerns that the city was seeking to form its own police department were raised after the dismissal of City Manager Mike Jackson by the majority of the council last month.
At least two council members – Dean Grafos and Chuck Hafner – have expressed interest in a state investigation into the legality of Jackson’s removal, but a motion by Grafos to that effect went nowhere on Tuesday.
“I think the city has made a decision, and we have to move on from here,” said Council Member Bill Gothmann. “We need to look toward our constituents.”