Local News

Political group questioning Sheriff Knezovich's crime claims

SPOKANE, Wash. - Knezovich crime stats

Did Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich exaggerate the success of a special program to lower property crimes? A group of retired law enforcement officers called "Integrity First" wants to verify the sheriff's claims of double digit decreases in property crimes.

The group wants to make sure the sheriff's claims that there were double-digit decreases in residential, garage and commercial burglaries in 2012 are accurate.

Sheriff Knezovich said answering the public records request from Integrity First has been a painstaking process, but Knezovich thinks the extra work is worth it if it promotes the public's trust in the sheriff's office.

Back in the spring of 2012, Spokane County was dealing with a frightening 53-percent increase in burglaries. Thieves were breaking into homes while people were at work; in one incident three girls had to hide a thief when he broke into their parents' home. Knezovich called a new conference to declare a public safety emergency.

"We selected some very talented sergeants that formed a burglary task force that worked right along side our investigative task force and our patrol units and every asset we had," he said.

Even the top brass of the department was flushed into the field to look for the daylight burglars and along with a judge who set some high bonds for repeat offenders the task force got results.

"We went out and arrested people for property crimes, which drove down the residential burglaries to the point that when we followed a group of burglars into Pend Oreille County those folks told us they reason they went to Pend Oreille County is because we were arresting everybody in Spokane County," Knezovich said.

The task force arrested 214 people on property crimes charges in three months, but now Integrity First wants to double check the sheriff's math. The group's public records request includes raw data and even e-mails about daily task force performance.

Knezovich suspects the extra scrutiny is about politics

"Is that what this is about, to find a new man to be our sheriff and run against you?" Jeff Humphrey asked.

"It's very much about. They can cloak and dagger this as much as they want. I have the letter and the e-mails to show they've identified a candidate and everything else," Knezovich responded.

Members of Integrity First declined to go on camera until they have all of the records they've requested, but they do say they are not trying to unseat Knezovich, rather to just make sure that taxpayers are getting the best bang for their public safety bucks.

While they said they aren't trying to unseat Knezovich, KXLY confirmed Integrity First is registered as a political action group with the Washington Public Disclosure Commission.