Sheriff now boss of rival
Cal Walker wants to remain Spokane Valley’s police chief unless, of course, he becomes sheriff.
“I don’t have any intent of going anywhere else except for the electoral process,” Walker said.
On Tuesday, county commissioners selected Ozzie Knezovich for sheriff over Walker and sheriff’s Lt. Jim Finke. Now Walker and Knezovich will be battling for the job once again in September’s GOP primary.
Finke took himself out of the running Friday and said he is uncertain if he will endorse either candidate.
“One of them will be my boss,” said Finke.
Meanwhile, the commission’s selection has created a possibly tense dynamic in the sheriff’s office with Knezovich, formerly a training sergeant, becoming Walker’s boss. The sheriff’s office has the contract to provide police services for Spokane Valley.
Walker said since the decision was made, he’s been doing his daily routine as chief and conveying the message that Knezovich deserves the respect entitled to the office.
“We need to support the leader of the law enforcement agency in this community for the betterment of this community,” Walker said.
The two sat down and discussed the situation Friday.
“There’s no hard feelings between the two of us,” Knezovich said.
Still, questions are emerging about how autonomous the Valley police department is from the sheriff’s office, and Valley council members and Walker said Friday that the city legal staff is reviewing the issue.
“If you go all the way through the contract, the chief’s job, specifically, is 100 percent belonging to the Spokane Valley,” Walker said. “It’s pretty explicit.”
Walker said if Knezovich holds an application process for his position as Knezovich has proposed, he will apply.
The contract between the sheriff’s office and Spokane Valley says the city manager picks the chief from a list of captains submitted by the sheriff. It doesn’t say anything about removing a chief, but the sheriff has the sole authority to choose captains.
County commissioner Todd Mielke said the county’s legal staff believe that a new sheriff could change chiefs, but “what’s coming out of Ozzie’s administration is, ‘I don’t see any reason to change unless he gives me a reason to,’ ” Mielke said.
Knezovich said he is reviewing the contract and that he has asked Walker and the other top sheriff’s employees left from retiring Sheriff Mark Sterk’s administration to reapply for positions. Knezovich asked three other captains to remain without having to apply.
“I’m going to look at qualifications and how they view our role in society and things like that,” Knezovich said.
Spokane Valley City Council members said Friday that there is no doubt whom they want to be their police chief.
“I’m very anxious that he (Walker) remains chief,” said Councilman Bill Gothmann, who has backed Knezovich for the primary. “He’s done a good job for our city. He has a very good relationship with everyone on council.”
Knezovich’s stance on holding an application process hasn’t changed since he started campaigning for the job. The new sheriff said this week he would like an administration in place within a couple of months.
“I don’t like to make rash decisions,” Knezovich said.
In an interview Friday, Walker expressed frustration about his inability to refute accusations made in the application process, especially ones from his former boss, Pend Oreille County Sheriff Tony Bamonte. Because the events Bamonte discussed were more than two decades ago, Walker said he can’t remember all the details, and there’s no paperwork to back them up.
“Most of those contentious issues come from other people. They don’t come from (Knezovich), and they don’t come from me.” Walker said he and his supporters were shocked Tuesday night when the decision was announced. He remained silent when Mielke came to shake his hand, a response Mielke later called strange. Walker then left to visit with supporters gathered at Clinkerdagger Restaurant.
“If you let your tongue fly, you’re probably going to say things that you’re sorry for … especially in stressful situations and or shocking situations like that,” Walker said. “I didn’t want to sit around and talk about it or shake hands and do falsely laded congratulations. The decision was made, and it was time to let Ozzie have his night.”