An NPR member station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
0000017b-f971-ddf0-a17b-fd73f4140000Coverage of the 2018 Elections in Spokane, throughout the region, and across the country. Support for SPR Election reporting is provided by Spokane Journal of Business, Express Employment Professionals, and SPR members.Click here for a list of 2018 Election Coverage Special Events

Spokane County Sheriff Faces Election Challenge

Scott Maclay

The Spokane County Sheriff’s race featured in tomorrow’s [Tuesday] primary election features three-term incumbent Ozzie Knezovich versus Scott Maclay, a man who has legally changed his name to Dump Ozzie Dot Com.

Credit Ozzie Knezovich
Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich

Ozzie Knezovich has an enviable position among local elected officials. He has no term limits and, in his three elections, he has never received less than 70% support.

“People know that I hold my people accountable," Knezovich said. "People know that we have developed one of the best law enforcement agencies in this region.”

And he says his department has developed some of the most rigorous training programs in the country "concerning biased policing, how to recognize your own bias, how to calm people down and how to talk to people about how to make sure that situations are taken care of without having to use violence.”

Knezovich has used the weight of his office to speak out against budget cuts over the last several years. This year, he avoided spending reductions after warning of the potential that further cuts would have on public safety. He says his department lost more than 30 deputy positions during the recession that began in 2008 and has never fully regained them. And he has long battled county commissioners and other policy makers over the future of the county jail. He says it’s a substandard facility and he’s ready to go to battle again.

“It’s time to speak out and tell your elected officials, build a better facility and fix this criminal justice system," Knezovich said. "That is what I will be telling the board of county commissioners and the mayor of Spokane, because that is a major component, the mayor of Spokane, that it is time to quit looking at this problem and debating it and admiring it and it’s time to fix it.”

Why has it been so hard to convince them of that?

“Everybody’s afraid of one word: taxes. This is going to be expensive,” Knezovich said.

Despite his popularity, there is a group of county residents, led by respiratory therapist Scott Maclay, who think the sheriff is running an out-of-control police force. To call attention to his campaign, he legally changed his name to Dump Ozzie Dot Com.

Maclay believes the department has covered up important details involving a fatal accident in Spokane Valley in which a sheriff’s deputy hit a man with his vehicle as the man tried to cross the street. And there are other allegations he makes that you can find on his blog.

Maclay believes, despite not being a commissioned police officer, that he would make a good sheriff.

“I have the makeup and the personality that is going to restore the Mayberry RFD environment that I enjoyed my whole life growing up here,” he said.

He says he would surround himself with veteran officers, current and former employees of the sheriff’s department. He says he will look to expand the county’s jail diversion programs, to relieve pressure on the overcrowded facility. He talks about establishing night and weekend courts.

“I don’t think people should be going to jail unless they really belong there," Maclay said. "And I’m not saying I’m going to be light on crime, hardly is the case. But we just cannot afford to continue to house the numbers that we have without getting more creative in looking for other alternatives to help these people get back into society more constructively.”

Knezovich counters Maclay’s allegations by pointing to Maclay’s own criminal history and says he’s not qualified to lead a policing agency.

You can hear Knezovich’s response here.