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”.
The 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:
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.
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.