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:
The 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.