SPOKANE, Wash. - Spokane Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich has fired a deputy for bad behavior on the job after the deputy intentionally damaged someone?s property during an otherwise routine traffic stop.
The sheriff's message was simple: You can't break the law when you're supposed to be enforcing it.
The incident that triggered an Office of Professional Standards investigation got its start last summer when Deputy Travis Smith stopped a woman for a minor traffic infraction and ended up towing her car because her license was suspended.
?What happened was, the vehicle was seized, it was searched, and during the search the deputy stabbed a knife into the passenger seat of the vehicle which is a crime,? Knezovich said.
Knezovich said that Smith should have seized the weapon ? a set of brass knuckles with a knife on the end ? because it?s an illegal weapon. Instead the deputy took the blade and jabbed the woman?s car seat with it. In doing so Smith committed the crime of malicious mischief.
The only reason he wasn't arrested at the time was because the driver refused to press charges.
?It?s a crime, and when you wear a badge for the Spokane County Sheriff's Office you will wear it with honor or you won't wear it,? Knezovich said.
The sheriff says the public's complaints about his deputies conduct are taken seriously and investigated thoroughly. However in 2010, more than half of the 74 complaints lodged were generated by his own deputies. 30 of those complaints were sustained
In Smith?s case, he was already being investigated for not handling evidence properly and incomplete report writing, so when he admitted to the knife-in-the-seat-cushion incident he was fired last week.