Sheriff’s Memo: Arrest Those Who Question Use of Unmarked Vehicles

From Vitaliy Maksimov:

The use of unmarked vehicles by law enforcement for routine police work and wanton arrests for “obstruction” are hot-button issues for people who call themselves “Constitutionalists”. A 74-year old local pastor was killed by a Spokane Sheriff’s deputy who was sitting on his property in an unmarked police car.  People have been threatened with arrest (and some actually went to jail) for asking questions and videotaping police encounters.

In response to my Public Records Request, Spokane County Sheriff’s Office mailed me some documents. Among them, I was surprised to find a 2-page memo dated January 20, 2015 that touches on both issues. It reads:

Recently, law enforcement personnel have been approached while in the middle of a call-for-service or traffic stop. Based upon these events, coupled with other societal events (protests) throughout the United States, the training unit offers the following information. If any Sheriff’s Office commissioned Personnel is approached by a person(s) who wish to discuss the legality of the vehicle being used for “official purposes,” or, what “rights” they wish to exercise in order to enter a secure premises (PSB, U-City, etc.), please consider the following:

Per our mission, we will treat all people with dignity and respect. Additionally, if any person hinders, delays, or obstructs you in the discharge of your duties, you have the authority to make an arrest for obstructing a law enforcement officer. (See RCW below).

If possible, give the person(s) a warning that they are “obstructing” and that they are subject to arrest if they continue. A call for back-up is highly recommended, and if appropriate, make an arrest.

[Full text of the memo (PDF)]

No doubt the memo was the Spokane County Sheriff’s reaction to Gavin Seim’s video of a citizen making a traffic stop on a deputy for driving an unmarked vehicle. The video gathered well over 5 million views, and received local press coverage. Grant County Sheriff Tom Jones explained in a Facebook message that the patrol car the deputy was driving was awaiting vinyl graphics to be installed.

Unlike Sheriff Jones, who admitted that the car should have been marked, the memorandum reveals that Spokane County Sheriff Knezovich responded in a characteristic heavy-handed fashion, by advising his deputies to threaten citizens with arrest for exercising their constitutionally protected right to question the actions of their peace officers.

It is clear that the memo played a key role in my arrest on June 24. When I asked why my niece was being detained and what she was being charged with, the deputies ordered me to leave and threatened to arrest me for obstruction if I didn’t comply. I could not abandon a teenage girl with two male deputies on a deserted highway, so they acted out on their threat, and took me to jail — just as the memo prescribed.

Free Speech Is Not “Obstruction”

The Washington State Supreme Court made it clear in their “STATE OF WASHINGTON v. E.J.J.” decision, that you cannot be charged with obstruction for merely speaking:

The obstruction statute provides, “A person is guilty of obstructing a law enforcement officer if the person willfully hinders, delays, or obstructs any law enforcement officer in the discharge of his or her official powers or duties.” RCW 9A.76.020(1). To save the obstruction statute from being unconstitutionally overbroad in a First Amendment setting, we have construed the statute narrowly. Our cases have consistently required conduct in order to establish obstruction of an officer. State v. Williams, 171Wn.2d474, 485, 251 P.3d 877 (2011). In other words, a conviction for obstruction may not be based solely on an individual’s speech because the speech itself is constitutionally protected. This review is also consistent with the approach established by the United States Supreme Court. See Street v. New York, 394 U.S. 576, 578, 89 S. Ct. 1354, 22 L. Ed. 2d 572 (1969).

The Supreme Court reversed the conviction, noting that “obstruction statutes may not be used to limit citizens’ right to express verbal criticism, even abusive criticism, at police officers” and quoting from another US Supreme Court decision:

“[t]he freedom of individuals verbally to oppose or challenge police action without thereby risking arrest is one of the principal characteristics by which we distinguish a free nation from a police state.

When I asked Sheriff Knezovich via a Facebook message if he knew about the decision, he dismissed it with:

[..] this case was not in affect at the time you were pulled over.  It was filed June 25, 2015 you were arrested on June 24,2015.  No one knew of it and therefore the Deputies can not be held accountable for a new court decision they never knew about.  So this is really a pointless discussion.

Two months later, a woman who filmed the arrest of a pro-life protester was herself threatened with arrest — you guessed it — for “obstruction”.

The authoritarian Sheriff spits on the rights of Spokane citizens and violates state law, while gloating about his election record (70% of voters foolishly cast their ballots for Knezovich). If you care about your rights, I urge you to contact the Sheriff’s office, and demand that:

  1. They use unmarked vehicles only for undercover police work, as the law and common sense demand.
  2. Issue a correction to the memo, advising the deputies that a person may not be threatened with arrest for exercising their First Amendment right to free speech.

Also, please take the time to educate your friends and family about these issues. You can start by sharing this blog on your Facebook page.

P.S. As the murder of Pastor Creach so clearly demonstrates, using unmarked vehicles for non-undercover police work is reckless and fatally dangerous. A plain reading of the law leads one to the obvious conclusion that such use is also illegal. However, instead of admitting his mistake, Sheriff Knezovich added insult to injury by successfully lobbying the Spokane County commissioners to pass an ordinance authorizing the use of unmarked patrol cars.

Independent Oversight FAQ

why_independent_oversightTo the Spokane County Community:

Last month, over a thousand signatures were delivered to the County Commissioner’s Office requesting that they enact an ordinance providing independent oversight for the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office. These signatures were not from a specific political group or party.  Citizens just like you from all walks of life formed a coalition built on principle to bring about a collaborative and constructive voice to police oversight in our community and for our Sheriff’s Office, a great deal of which has been misunderstood.

What is independent oversight?
Either in the form of an Ombudsman or a Citizen’s Panel, it is a mechanism staffed by citizens who review the findings of internal police investigations independent of the Sheriff’s Office. They are not members of the Sheriff’s Office nor are they commissioned law enforcement officers. They can review and make public their findings as well as the findings of the Sheriff’s Office. They may also review information provided to them from parties other than the Sheriff’s Office. They work for you, on your behalf.

Doesn’t a system like this shift the power to discipline deputies from the Sheriff to the Ombudsman or Panel?
No. Independent oversight has no authority to circumvent anything the Sheriff’s Office does or decides to do. The Sheriff’s Office would continue to conduct investigations and sanction or uphold their deputies as they have in the past. The Ombudsman or Panel would provide to the citizens a comparative analysis of their investigation and the investigation of the Sheriff’s Office. In most instances, these are the same. However, in instances where they are not, public officials may be able to quickly address the observed deficiencies and restore public confidence.

How much will this cost the taxpayer?
Not very much. Recent media reports quoting public officials say that it may cost as little as $250,000 a year. To put this into perspective, Spokane County would spend more on animal control each year than independent oversight.

Don’t we already have a Citizen’s Oversight Panel?
No. Many years ago, the Sheriff’s Office formed a Citizen’s Advisory Committee. It was intended to provide the Sheriff’s Office general insight into community affairs. Although still in operation today, none of the members are specifically trained to understand complex police investigations or officer-involved shootings. These are also politically appointed by the Sheriff’s Office and serve at the pleasure of the sitting Sheriff. To form an official conclusion, they rely solely on the information provided them from the Sheriff’s Office.

Creating independent oversight for the Sheriff’s Office is not about exposing poor performance. Moreover, it is about promoting the fine work that the Sheriff’s Office does while providing citizens with the representative government and transparency they deserve. Our community is sadly behind the times as many other counties have embraced independent oversight. Join us in making Spokane County proud of their law enforcement, elected officials, and public servants. Support independent oversight for Spokane County by calling your County Commissioner today, at 509-477-5722.


Robert Lee

Urge Commissioner O’Quinn to Vote ‘Yes’ on Citizen’s Oversight


Spokane, Wash. – Commissioner Al French expressed his support for truly independent citizen oversight of the Spokane Sheriff’s Office, Commissioner Milke spoke out against it. Commissioner Shelly O’Quinn is now the deciding vote.

Shelly O’Quinn, County Commissioner, District 2
(509) 477-2265

Please call Commissioner O’Quinn, and urge her to support this common-sense measure. Explain that the CAB (Citizen’s Advisory Board) set up by the Sheriff is neither independent nor impartial. Urge her to set up an independently-appointed oversight commission with the ability to review law enforcement-involved use of force and incidents that result in the injury and/or death of citizens.

The Board of Commissioners is expected to make their decision in the next few days. Act now!


Department of State Senior Security Manager Urges Commissioner Shelly O’Quinn to Vote ‘Yes’ On Citizen’s Oversight

UPDATE – On Petition for Independent Oversight of the Spokane Sheriff’s Office

By RTC – EXCLUSIVE – The Liberty Command Center (The Rick Rydell Program, KXLY 920AM, Mon thru Thurs, 2PM to 4PM)

Email message from a petition signer to Commissioner Shelly O’Quinn from Berne Indahl a senior security manager for the US Department of State. See Mr. Indahls’ impressive Linked In bio:

Also see this mention of Mr. Indhal during the Senate confirmation hearings of Department of Defense Secretary – designate John Tower. Tower was not confirmed:

Please also write or call your Commissioner and request they quickly take action to implement independent oversight of the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

District 1 – Todd Mielke

District 2 – Shelly O’Quinn

District 3 – Al French

Phone: (509) 477-2265


Date: September 10, 2015 at 18:25:34 PDT

Subject: Message from Constituent… regarding Citizens Oversight Board…Sheriff’s Office


Good evening.

Wanted to share some information that you might not see elsewhere concerning the critical need for an independent citizens oversight board for the Spokane County Sheriff. Why? Frankly our Sheriff is just not an ethical law enforcement professional. He is a frankly a disgrace. Rather he takes advantage of civilians and even county commissioners….with inadequate LE understandings. He blows smoke. Therefore, only an independent group can produce a far better review and oversight product for taxpayers rather than just looking for typos in the Sheriff’s spoon-fed documentation. Details are as listed below.

The win-win is simply to require inquest panels for all officer-involved shootings and deaths that occur in Spokane County. This should include inmate deaths in the jail too. Can be done quickly by your ordinance with a simple majority vote without any need to meet and confer with the police unions. What is lacking in Spokane is a truly independent review of the investigative work product. This would be an organizational/system check that wouldn’t rely on people. King Co has done this since 2002 and could be used as a simple template.

A longer term project would be to implement a mechanism where citizens can make complaints involving alleged police misconduct and abuse not involving a death. Complaints should be easy to make without having to go into the Sheriffs inner sanctum ……where he believe me when I say this….commonly bullies, badgers, and threatens others via force to sign a statement under penalty of perjury. Both Rob Lee and Ron Wright have firsthand experience with this. The normal citizen would be literally shaking in their boots. I spoke with both of them about this. It results from a narcissistic personality.

The Citizens Advisory Board that the Sheriff is now trying to say does an effective review is clearly a total sham/fraud. Why? Members are hand selected by the Sheriff, kept in the dark and spoon-fed information……like mushrooms. As former Under Sheriff Wiyrick said in a recent Inlander article …. garbage in garbage out. I discussed this with him too.

Believe me….The Sheriff has attempted to dismiss and marginalize supporters of this petition as right wing extremists and those with political axes to grind with him. Not true. The support includes those from the Center for Justice, the Spokane Human Rights Commission, PJALS and the ACLU. Strange bedfellows indeed.

I’ve studied the special Spokane environment and based on my professional education, training and 40 years experience….. inquest panels would quickly raise the professional bar of these investigations. If they are low balled or a law enforcement cover-up is in the works it would be quickly exposed.

There have been a number of questionable deaths by Sheriff’s deputies while perhaps not criminal in nature (Exception of Ryan Holy death where the deputy was going over 70 MPH with no red lights and siren) Scott Creach, Quinton Dodd and William Berger, there are very serious issues of poor or flawed police policy, procedure and training or lack of leadership holding deputies accountable for violations. Difficult job and mistakes will be made. If you don’t learn from them and remediate the causes the civil damage awards will only escalate.

Wright and Wiyrich are extraordinary professionals who are highly ethical LE whistleblowers urging your vote to fix a critical cancer in the Sheriffs Office. We need confidence building measures. This petition does exactly that.

Please support it for our whole community. Hope this is useful.

Thank you.


Berne M. Indahl

Spokane, Wash 99223

U.S. Department of State

Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

505 West Riverside Ave., Suite 550
Spokane, WA 99201

509-703-8004 (Phone)
509-315-8770 (Fax)

CA PI License No. PI 25239
WA PI License No. 3387

KXLY Says Couple “Stalked” Deputy on Patrol

Spokane, Wash. -KXLY4 TV issued a report, claiming that a Spokane Valley couple “tried to provoke a confrontation” with a deputy by following him in their SUV. The report admits that the activity “is not illegal” and that the couple was not arrested, but in the reporter’s opinion it is a “tremendous distraction” and speculated that the couple “were looking for trouble.”deputy_followed

The report looks like a propaganda piece in support of the embattled Sheriff. Following (and filming) police is not illegal for a good reason: it is the duty of the citizens to monitor police activities and make sure the cops are not abusing their authority. Recent cases involving the killings or mistreatment of citizens at the hands of the Spokane County Sheriff’s deputies prove that there is an urgent need for citizen oversight of the SCSO, and Sheriff Knezovich’s opposition to the establishment of an independent Citizen’s Oversight Board is forcing people to take it upon themselves to “police the police”.

The report concluded:

If you don’t care about nervous deputies who are now looking over their shoulders at people following them, consider this: A number of deputies were drawn away from patrolling neighborhoods and businesses so they could help figure out why the driver of the SUV was following this deputy.

If the deputies were drawn away from activities such as harassing a peaceful pro-life protester, humiliating a man in front of his neighbors while looking for porn at the wrong housearresting a citizen who did not want to abandon his teenage niece with two male sheriff’s deputies, killing a pastor on his property, or running over a 15-year old boy while traveling at twice the speed limit, may we suggest that it may not be such a bad thing?

Inlander: Sheriff’s Advisory Board Not Independent

Today’s article in the Inlander examined the Sheriff’s claims that the Citizens’ Advisory Board (CAB) is “independent” and “impartial”, and found them to be false:

knezovich-mugThe Inlander spoke with 14 of the 19 board members, including attorneys, military veterans, a school teacher, a retired truck driver and a financial advisor. Most are older than 55. Several currently work in the local criminal justice system. Three members are former police officers, two say they’ve wanted to be police officers, and many express intense admiration for law enforcement.

“I grew up not respecting the police as I probably should have,” says board member Leigh O’Neill, on why she joined the board 14 years ago. “I wanted my kids to respect them and understand the police.”

They praise the sheriff for transparency, even though not every member always agrees with him. “I don’t like unmarked cars,” says board member Mike Davisson, a retired engineering manager.

Several say that Knezovich asked them to join the board after they expressed frustration over property crime or the department’s efficiency.

Yet there’s one sort of voice not on the board: A fervent law enforcement critic, echoing the outcry of groups like Black Lives Matter.

The Board’s composition is not the only problem. It’s effectiveness, competence, and objectivity in question. According to the article, there is no official process for submitting citizen complaints to the CAB. It has no website, no mailing list, issues no press releases and doesn’t make official announcements. Even though theoretically it can interview witnesses, in case after case, the board has only considered evidence presented by the Sheriff.

Over the years, the board has asked a lot of tough questions, advisory members say. But ultimately, their written decisions have been short — only a few paragraphs — and have never been critical of the sheriff or his department.

That doesn’t surprise former undersheriff David Wiyrick, who helped recruit many of the current advisory board members. “It’s garbage in and garbage out,” says Wiyrick, a vehement critic of Knezovich. “If they’re told one side of the issue, that’s all they have to go on.”

He doesn’t believe they’re qualified to investigate burglaries, much less shootings.

“If a lot of those members are still there then — bless their souls — they don’t have the background to do something like this,” says Wiyrick.

Read the full article at

Commissioner Mielke Says the Board Lacks Authority to Impose Oversight; Civil Rights Groups Disagree

By: RTC – EXCLUSIVE -The Liberty Command Center

mielke2012_170x242District 1 Commissioner Todd Mielke said that the Board of Commissioners lacks the statutory authority to impose independent oversight over the Sheriff’s Office. Both Center for Justice executive director Rick Eichestaedt and I disagree with Mielke’s assessment. Mielke however, said the Board does have the authority to require inquest panels for all officer-involved shootings and deaths in the County.

District 3 Commissioner Al French in a candidates forum last year said he supports independent civilian oversight. Sheriff Kenzovich in the past said he wanted oversight similar to Spokane’s ombudsman program. Both Mielke, French and Sheriff Knezovich expressed support for inquest panels in the past as reported by the Spokesman-Review.


Politics does indeed makes strange bedfellows. Sheriff Knezovich has in the past characterized his critics as being “right-wing extremists” and others with “political agendas”, in order to to dismiss and marginalized them. Those demanding independent civilian oversight now include the Center for Justice, PJALS and the NAACP which include people such as Rick Eichenstaedt, Liz Moore, Tim Connor, Larry Shook, Dave Brookbank and Bonnie Mager.

The Board of Commissioners would do well to act quickly to require inquest panels as now being demanded by a diverse group of community groups and citizens. Secondly, the Board should then immediately, begin a discussion on implementing independent civilian oversight over the Sheriff’s Office for alleged police misconduct and abuse that does not involve a death. A wildcard is that the City of Spokane Valley may too require these actions or if rebuffed cancel its law enforcement contract with the Sheriff’s Office.

The Board by a simple majority could enact an ordinance requiring inquest panels. Such action would not require any negotiations with the police unions. King County has required such inquest panels since 2002. The King County ordinance, policies, and procedures could be used as a template:…/executi…/publicaeo/phl71aeo.aspx


Sheriff Knezovich blows a lot of smoke at his press conference concerning the petition for civilian oversight

UPDATE – On petition for civilian oversight of the Sheriff’s Office (Sheriff’s Citizens’ Advisory Board)

Petitions calling for “Independent Oversight Needed for the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office,” were delivered to Spokane County Board of Commissioners today

Shawn Vestal on police accountability, the SPD Ombudsman, and the making of sausage – conclusion it went rancid

Spokane County Commissioner Al French says ‘YES’ to Citizen Oversight Committee

Officials consider coroner inquests…/officials-consider-coroner-inqu…/

Knezovich wants ombudsman oversight for his department…/knezovich-wants-ombudsman-ov…/2913266


No Sheriff, You Do Not Have Independent Citizens Oversight

Spokane, Wash. – Sheriff Knezovich held a press conference to address the petition for civilian oversight of the Sheriff’s Office. In the 20-minute video, he claimed that the Spokane Sheriff’s Office already has an independent citizen’s board, and that the board has been “very active”. Mr. Knezovich went on to accuse the Center of Justice of “being disingenuous”, dismissing the petition as “politically motivated”.

sheriffs_cabThe facts make it clear, however, that it is not the Center of Justice that are being disingenuous. The group that the Sheriff referred to, the Sheriff’s Citizens Advisory Board (CAD), was never designed to provide oversight. It is not independent: every member of the board is appointed by the Sheriff, and there are no term limits. The group has no website, no Facebook page, no online presence whatsoever. A Google search returns a lone congratulatory letter from the group’s representative addressed to the Sheriff.

The civil rights groups who participated in the rally feel that the board doesn’t have enough clout or visibility. According to Blaine Stum of the Spokane Human Rights Commission in a statement he gave to KXLY-TV, “the advisory board has released no major findings outside of a couple of small letters. How is a citizen supposed to have faith in that process? How is a citizen supposed to believe that that process produces unbiased, fair results?”

As the name suggests, the Sheriff’s Citizens Advisory Board was set up by the Sheriff’s predecessor to advise the SCSO on matters of policy and procedures, not provide oversight. In a letter addressed to Ron Wright, a former Spokane County Undersheriff recalls the genesis of the board, its purpose and objectives:

Mr.. Wright,

I reviewed parts of you e-mail and you appear very accurate in your assessment of the Sheriff’s Citizen Advisory Board.

I was one of the Architects of the Sheriffs Citizen Advisory board assigned under the direction of Sheriff Mark Sterk. I worked with other senior staff including Captain Dick Collins. 

The CAB was formed as a sounding board for changes in policy and procedures, new equipment education including tazers and education of the CAB to include a few. They were also provided information on several major cases including the Robert Yates case. I recruited a broad range of citizens from across Spokane County to include educators, retired military, a retired State Patrol Sgt., business persons and the average citizen. Their role was to ask questions and give feedback when presented with changes in Policy or use of equipment etc. They are a great group and I applaud them for doing their civic duty.

They were never trained to be a Police Oversight Board and lack the experience necessary to even conduct a rudimentary enquiry into officer involved shootings and other major events. I see that the Sheriff is misrepresenting the news media and the public, stating that he already has Citizen Review Board when he says that the CAB is a Citizen Review Board. In my opinion this is a misrepresentation by the Sheriff and the Sheriff is laying down a smokescreen. He knows the truth. [emphasis added – KR]

I have experienced other incidents where I have questioned the Sheriffs truthfulness where he has misrepresented facts. I would ask that you confirm the information I have provided to you with Former Sheriff Mark Sterk or retired Captain Dick Collins.

The Sheriff can’t continue calling every one else a liar, he knows the real truth.

Thank You

David Wiyrick, Retired Spokane County Undersheriff.

It is clear that the Sheriff’s Citizens Advisory Board is not independent, nor does it provide meaningful oversight.

Contact your County Commissioner, and urge them to set up a truly independent citizens law enforcement oversight commission.


Planned Rally in Support of the Citizens Oversight Petition

Civil rights activists have announced their intention to hold a rally in support of establishing an independent citizen’s commission to oversee the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office. After the rally, Rob Lee together with the Center for Justice attorneys will present the petition to the Spokane County Commissioners. In 2013, Robert Lee’s son Robert “Danny” Lee was denied essential medication while incarcerated at the Spokane County Jail. The family sued the jail and Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, and received a settlement from the county.

The rally is to take place on Wednesday, September 2 at 11 am in front of the Spokane County Superior Court. Featured speakers include Doug Orr, a candidate for Spokane County Sheriff, Liz Moore of the Peace and Justice Action League, and Blaine Stum of the Human Rights Commission.  Ernie Creech, the son of Scott Creech, a 74-year old pastor killed by the sheriff’s deputy, is expected to attend the rally.

Below is the full text of the petition:

Petition summary and background

Unlike many other jurisdictions, including the City of Spokane, Spokane County lacks independent oversight of the Spokane County Sheriff’s office, particularly review of incidents that result in the death or injury of citizens. While most incidents involving use of force are justified, there are examples where law enforcement action is inconsistent with County policies or the law. Independent oversight provides impartial review and helps protect the trust of our community in the officers charged to protect us.

Action petitioned for

We, the undersigned, are concerned Spokane County citizens who urge the Spokane County Board of County Commissioners to enact a County Code requiring the appointment of an independentlyappointed law enforcement oversight commission with the ability to review law enforcement-involved use of force and incidents that result in the injury and/or death of citizens. This Commission must have the authority to investigate incidents and issue findings as to the consistency of officer actions with County policies and applicable law.

You may also download the petition in PDF format: County Oversight Petition