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.”
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.
John Bergman Jr., a member of the Spokane Sheriff’s Office Citizens Advisory board, made the decision to resign at next week’s meeting. According to Mr. Bergman, the public debate turned the CAB “political”.
Mr. Bergman has served on the board since its founding in 2001 by Knezovich’s predecessor, Sheriff Mark Sterk.
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 boardafter 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.
District 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:
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.
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.
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.
Sheriff Knezovich flames Spokane Valley Councilman
By RTC – EXCLUSIVE – The Liberty Command Center
Sheriff Knezovich flamed City Councilman Ed Pace over an incident at Shari’s on Sullivan in the Valley. The Spokane County Constitutional Republicans hold their monthly meeting at this Shari’s. The Sheriff and members of the Constitutional Republicans, the Northwest Grassroots, and the Tea Party Patriots have been at odds since the Sheriff’s recent presentation on radical extremist groups. These conservative groups believe the Sheriff unfairly linked them with real radical rightwing extremist groups.
During a meeting in July of this year, two sheriff’s deputies were observed in Shari’s parking lot. Some attending the meeting were concerned that the deputies were noting license plate numbers and monitoring the meeting.
Councilman Pace along with several other Valley Councilmen attend these monthly meetings. Pace wrote an inquiry to the Assistant Valley City Manager Mark Calhoun. In turn, Calhoun forwarded the inquiry to Valley PD Chief Rick Van Leuven. Chief Van Leuven had Lt. Matt Lyons research this inquiry. Lt. Lyons replied back the deputies were in the area for a valid reason and were not surveilling the meeting. Chief Van Leuven then replied back appropriately with their findings.
Sheriff Knezovich flamed Councilman Pace in this email. The Sheriff should have been more circumspect in his email to Councilman Pace. In as much as the Valley City Council ultimately is the Sheriff’s boss with regard to the City of Spokane Valley’s law enforcement contract with the Spokane Co Sheriff’s Office. The responses by Chief Van Leuven and Lt. Lyons were respectful and appropriate. Coincidentally, one of the deputies involved is the same one who allegedly “harassed” a pro-life supporter in front of the Valley Planned Parenthood Clinic:
A source supplied RTC with the following email chain [Slightly redacted to remove email addresses by RTC]:
From: “Knezovich, Ozzie” <OKnezovich@spokanesheriff.org<mailto:OKnezovich@spokanesheriff.org>>
> Date: July 23, 2015 at 7:54:02 PM PDT
> To: Ed Pace
> Subject: Re: Citizen Input Regarding Police Presence at Shari’s on Thursday 7/9/15
> Thank you councilman. I look forward to Mr. Keith’s response and any witness information.
> Sent from my iPhone
> On Jul 23, 2015, at 6:21 PM, Ed Pace <firstname.lastname@example.org<mailto:email@example.com>> wrote:
> Hello Ozzie,
> Thank you very much for your and Lt. Lyon’s thorough response to the citizen input I had passed along to our City staff regarding the July 9th meeting of the Constitutional Republicans of Spokane County, where a number of members said they observed two Spokane Valley police vehicles in Shari’s restaurant parking lot.
> The perceptions and concerns I relayed in my email were from meeting attendees, not the president of the organization.
> I discussed the key points of your response with Scott Keith, president of Spokane County Constitutional Republicans, stressing that any further questions or concerns from organization members should be made directly to you and/or the City staff.
> Thanks again for your attention to this matter.
> Best Regards,
> Ed Pace, Councilmember
> City of Spokane Valley
> On Jul 23, 2015, at 1:49 PM, Knezovich, Ozzie <OKnezovich@spokanesheriff.org<mailto:OKnezovich@spokanesheriff.org><mailto:OKnezovich@spokanesheriff.org>> wrote:
> Mr. Pace,
> Below you will find Lt. Lyons’ findings concerning the outrageous claims made about the two deputies that serve the community of the City of Spokane Valley. I am surprised that such outlandish claims were made by your group. To claim that the deputies were there for 45 minutes and that they were taking photos of vehicle license plates and the occupants of the room rises to a level of paranoia that should be shocking but sadly isn’t. As noted we have no cameras in our vehicles nor body cameras, I wish we did because they would have shown just how ludicrous the below claim is.
> Since you were there did you see the type of activity described from the deputies?
> Knowing your group and their affinity for recording things via camera or smart phone do you or they have video of the deputies actions?
> It should be noted that it was members of your group that recorded and later produced the video of the deputies performing a public outreach function at the Walmart last December. This is the reason I ask if there is any video of these claims.
> For the record, it is against state and federal law to perform surveillance of political groups unless there is a clear and proven link to criminal activity. The Spokane County Sheriff’ s Office abides by the state and federal laws concerning these activities. It may surprise you but our agency is actually rewriting a class concerning these types of laws for the University of Louisville, and will soon start instructing this class nationally.
> The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office is a professional organization and has a firmly rooted mandate to protect the Constitutional rights of our citizens. The activity your group claims is not only illegal but against the very principles of our values and the Constitution of the United States. I find these claims totally political in nature and as noted below false. Perhaps you should have attended the town hall meeting as Mayor Grafos did and you would have learned my stance on these issues. However, it has come to my attention via social media and personal emails that your group feels that I called all “constitutionalist” racists and Nazis during the presentation. I’m sure Mayor Grafos can counter that claim and enlighten you concerning the facts. It is a sad day when groups begin using and disparaging our law enforcement agencies to further their political agendas, which from the fact that members of your group created the video of the deputy at Walmart last December and are responsible for this claim, appears to be the smearing of the men and women of the Sheriff’s Office and myself personally.
> As noted above please send me any information you have concerning this incident, since a full investigation will be conducted into this matter. Also please provide me with a list of witnesses that we should be interviewing to determine if our deputies did violate the Constitution of the United States, federal and state law and the policies and procedures of the Sheriff’s Office. These are serious allegations that if true will result in the termination of the offending deputies. I will also be contacting the FBI and request that they participated in this investigation due to the seriousness of the allegations.
> Ozzie Knezovich
> Spokane County Sheriff
> From: “Lyons, Matt”
> Date: July 16, 2015, 13:04:30 PDT
> To: “VanLeuven, Rick”
> Subject: RE: Citizen Input Regarding Police Presence at Shari’s on Thursday 7/9/15
> On July 9 at 1908 hours two deputies (Lawhorn: B506 and Petersen:B505) were dispatched to a DV at Moore and Valleyway (about 1100 feet from Shari’s). One was driving a marked SUV Interceptor and the other a Crown Vic Interceptor. They arrived at the call at 1912 hours and quickly determined that there was no crime as the incident involved legal parental discipline. They cleared at 1920 hours and stopped in the Shari’s parking lot to discuss the call. No other SCSO/SVPD units were present. Fourteen minutes later they were dispatched (along with B504 and P780) to a drunk/disorderly at Walmart (. . . E. Broadway) and both arrived at Walmart along with B504 at 1935 hours. P780 arrived at 1939 hours.
> As you know, there are no vehicle mounted cameras in service within the SCSO/SVPD fleet, nor is anyone wearing any sort of camera.
> CAD verifies that Lawhorn and Peterson were in the Shari’s parking lot for no more than 14 minutes (1920 hours to 1934 hours). Peterson said that he got out of his vehicle briefly to retrieve something from the back. Neither walked around the parking lot, nor did they contact anyone other than each other. I checked CAD to see if anyone else could have been there. During the time period in question everyone was either tied up on a call or in an area where they could not have gotten from their previous call to Shari’s and then made it to the next call that shows on their unit histories.
> Let me know if you need anything further.
> Lt. Matt Lyons
> Spokane Valley Police Precinct Commander
> Explosives Disposal Unit Commander •
> From: VanLeuven, Rick
> Sent: Monday, July 13, 2015 4:14 PM
> To: Lyons, Matt
> Subject: Fwd: Citizen Input Regarding Police Presence at Shari’s on Thursday 7/9/15
> Hi Matt, I am sure there is a logical reason our two SV cars were there, if you can please determine. Since we are lacking the electronic surveillance capability this just doesn’t make sense.
> ——– Original Message ——–
> Subject: FW: Citizen Input Regarding Police Presence at Shari’s on Thursday 7/9/15
> From: Mark Calhoun
> To: “VanLeuven, Rick”
> Read the e-mail from Council Member Ed Pace below for a bit more detail but to summarize, on Thursday, 7/9/15 at approximately 7pm the Spokane County Constitutional Republican group was holding a meeting at Shari’s on Sullivan Road. During the meeting 2 police vehicles parked in the Shari’s lot for about 45 minutes and some members of the group are concerned they are being monitored by the City Police in light of some of Sheriff Knezovich’s comments at his June 29 presentation at CV High School. When you get a chance would you give me a call so we can discuss?
> Thank you,
> Mark Calhoun, Deputy City Manager
> City of Spokane Valley
> 11707 E. Sprague, Suite 106
> Spokane Valley, WA 99206
> —–Original Message—–
> From: Ed Pace
> Sent: Monday, July 13, 2015 3:41 PM
> To: Mark Calhoun
> Cc: Cary Driskell; Rick Van Leuven
> Subject: Citizen Input Regarding Police Presence at Shari’s on Thursday 7/9/15
> Hello Mark,
> As I mentioned this morning, I was at a meeting of the Spokane County Constitutional Republicans on Thursday 7/9/15. The main agenda item was a discussion on the recent “town hall” meeting held by the Republicans of Spokane County featuring our County Sheriff.
> During our Thursday meeting several participants noticed, through the meeting room window, two SV police vehicles in the parking lot. This caused quite a bit of “buzz” around the room with people wondering if, because of the topic of our meeting, we were being “monitored.”
> Here is an excerpt from an email sent later by one of the meeting participants:
> “Regarding the two police cars parked in the southeast corner of Shari’s parking lot during our meeting – My son in law was sitting next to me and he was watching out the window from when they drove up. The car came first and parked and then the SUV showed up. A deputy got out of one of the vehicles and walked to the west side of the parking area, then proceeded to walk north to the sidewalk next to the Shari’s building. He stopped and faced each vehicle and then walked to the next. My guess is that he had a body camera and was getting all of the license plates of the vehicles in the parking lot. A lady got out of one of the cars parked against the sidewalk and the deputy had a conversation with her. I don’t know if it was anyone in our meeting. I would guess that they had dash cams on the patrol vehicle and that they were able to zoom in enough to capture the folks in the room”
> This email is typical of the perceptions I heard directly from people. It would be great to know why those officers were really there and what they were doing. Thanks!
> Best Regards,
> Ed Pace
> Sent from my iPad
I’m pretty disgusted in the way you handled that man that was only exercising his 1st amendment rights. How sad, that you took an oath to uphold and defend the constitution, and yet here you are, violating them. There was never a need for handcuffs, much less a lecture from the officer. Shame on him, and shame on the department that allows this type of thing to continue to happen.
Apparently, your department hasn’t gotten the memo about social media, and this concept called “viral”, from which you cannot hide your thug behavior.
YouTube comments were also overwhelmingly critical of the deputy’s behavior, and supportive of the pro-life protester:
This needs to be shared and shared again. This man did nothing wrong!
this is terrible!
Threatening anyone with arrest for “obstruction” is unlawful intimidation. They have to have a crime in order to make that claim, and peacefully holding a sign in a public place is not a crime. Their assault and battery on the man is a crime. He needs to sue the assailant.
CLEARLY, THIS DEPUTY was NOT upholding the Constitution NOR the POLICY of the SCSO. He IS intimidating Both Citizens, CLEARLY A POWER TRIP which should be Addressed by His CO the Locally elected, Sheriff OZZIE K. This type of bullying has been seen around the country [and] is creating a divide against the Local police and its Citizenry
Several commenters praised the good Samaritan citizen-journalist:
You have more courage than 99% of pro-life professors and pastors girl. We appreciate your steadfastness.
Great job filming. Remember to stand up to them when they ask for ID. They have no right to question you.
Thank you for sharing and exposing the evil of bullying of this poor citizen. Brave lady. You are a hero. We must be united in standing for truth.
So far, the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office has not issued a statement about the video.
SPOKANE VALLEY, WASHINGTON: On August 20, 2015 a courageous bystander recorded an incident in which Spokane County Sheriff’s deputy harassed, handcuffed, and assaulted an elderly pro-life protester. This is how the bystander described what happened:
I noticed four women harassing an older gentleman holding a “Choice is Abortion” sign, and pulled over. The women were yelling profanities and insulting the protester. One of the women was especially aggressive, with her body hovering over him and her finger right in his face. At one point, she yelled “if you turn that sign towards me one more time, I will pound you into the ground.”
I tried my best to de-escalate the situation, but the women continued screaming at the man, Jerry Springer-style. Throughout the ordeal, he remained peaceful. He did not yell. He was polite. He did not reciprocate their threats.
After about five minutes, Spokane Sheriff’s deputies arrived on the scene. I breathed a sigh of relief. However, to my surprise, they ignored the belligerent women, but one of the deputies immediately walked over to the gentle old man, and demanded that he put down the sign and submit to questioning.
Deputy Lawhorn is seen in the video briskly walking over to the protester, pushing his sign to the ground, and handcuffing him. He then grabs the man by the handcuffs and leads him away, using an excessive amount of force.
The woman recording the video attempts to reason with the deputy, but he threatens her with arrest for “obstructing”. At one point, Lawhorn is seen rudely pushing the man in the chest, against the front of the SUV.
After he released the protester, deputy Lawhorn approached the citizen journalist and repeatedly demanded to see her ID (she refused), took down her license plate number, and asked his fellow deputy whether he informed her that she “can be arrested for obstruction if she doesn’t leave” in an apparent attempt to intimidate her.