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Human Rights Groups Petition for Spokane Sheriff's Office Oversight

Dave Conner via Flickr

  A coalition of human rights groups and politicians says there needs to be independent oversight to the Spokane county Sheriff’s office.

  The Center for Justice, along with the Peace and Justice Action League and the city’s Human Rights Commission presented a petition with 1,000 signatures Wednesday to the County Commissioners asking for an independent body to oversee the Sheriff's Office.

The Center for Justice's Rick Eichstadt says the current oversight is too close to the source.  "Right now the sheriff has an advisory board that he hand selects. He gives them the information. They’re not independent, in fact if you go on line you can’t find any information, when they meet, even copies of their findings."

On Tuesday, the Sheriff held his own press conference to preempt the call for that board, saying the issue was driven by his “political opponents.” In fact his former opponent in the last election, George Orr, is one who is supporting the call.

But Rick Eichstadt says the Sheriff himself has gone on the record supporting the idea in the past.  "In fact, we’re very surprised by Ozzie’s reaction to this, because during the campaign , he campaigned on the issue of independent oversight. In October of last year he went to the county commissioners and asked them to fund an ombudsman for the sheriff’s department because as he said, he wanted a third set of eyes to look at what was happening in his department."

Critics of the Sheriff’s department cite incidents, like the Deputy shooting death of valley plant farm owner Wayne Creach or the fatal accident involving a teen on a bicycle and a sheriffs vehicle and the perception that such incidents were not reviewed by an independent panel.

Sheriff Knezovich says he is trying to avoid the process the city of Spokane has been going through in trying to find a police ombudsman, which has now dragged on for eight months. 

Knezovitch says that process “melted down because it did not do background checks.”  He specifically mentioned Rachael Dolezal when referring to the failures of the commission. Dolezal was removed from the commission after revelations that she was representing herself as black, including on her commission application, even though she is white.

Steve was part of the Spokane Public Radio family for many years before he came on air in 1999. His wife, Laurie, produced Radio Ethiopia in the late 1980s through the '90s, and Steve used to “lurk in the shadowy world” of Weekend SPR. Steve has done various on air shifts at the station, including nearly 15 years as the local Morning Edition host. Currently, he is the voice of local weather and news during All Things Considerd, writing, editing, producing and/or delivering newscasts and features for both KPBX and KSFC. Aside from SPR, Steve ,who lives in the country, enjoys gardening, chickens, playing and listening to music, astronomy, photography, sports cars and camping.
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