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Spokane Valley supports current sheriff contract

Sat., Sept. 13, 2008

It’s back with a vengeance.

People resoundingly told the Spokane Valley City Council to keep the contract with our elected Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich and no study. We risk accountability, if we form our own police force under an unelected city manager, whoever that person is.

Power needs checks and balances, with elections being one of those checks. The structure and chain of power is the other balance. Unfortunately, without the county sheriff contract we have a short, weak chain. This is police power over our citizens and these safeguards matter.

The issue would have been settled but Mayor Rich Munson put it on the agenda, setting the stage for another push for the police study on our tax dollars. Retired manager Stan McNutt took center stage leading discussion of inclusionary items.

The state auditor was framed as a dragon ready to pounce on Spokane Valley, due to Initiative 900 that authorizes performance audits. Spokane Valley was hyped as being on the 10 most wanted list of cities targeted for this audit.

They played their trump card by pointedly noting Yakima is currently undergoing this very audit. The time had come to batten down the hatches, hire consultants and make those benchmarks.

Surprisingly, working solutions borrowed from other communities, provided by Councilman Bill Gothmann, were not allowed in the discussion nor was the PowerPoint presentation of Sheriff Knezovich. It was enough to make a citizen nervous with dollar sign exclamation points.

Searching for answers, I went to the horse’s mouth, the State Auditor’s Office. An employee explained that audits funded by Initiative 900 evaluate strengths and weaknesses of the area in question. If problems don’t exist they stop the work, as happened when Spokane County underwent a performance audit of the jail and overtime practices.

Further, the city of Yakima requested its performance audit to ensure the best solutions in a particular area. It was not singled out. Initiative 900 does not require creation of benchmarks. Best practices are their threshold of measurement.

The good news is state performance audits are fully funded by the state. Voters authorized sales tax for use by the state auditor to find ways to save us money, not burden municipalities with expenses to withstand the audit. These audits specifically consider how well items work, problems and whether the taxpayers get their best bang for the buck.

This process needs to start with the expertise of our contractual provider, Sheriff Knezovich, who has overwhelming public support and a measurable track record of success in making Spokane Valley a safer place to live. The discussion had the cart before the horse.

Bogging down staff to recreate the wheel is unnecessary. Our Sheriff’s Department is already shaped around best practices, because every day officers place their lives on the line.

Lastly, Sheriff Knezovich must be in charge of Spokane Valley’s police because the county’s insurance is on the line and his elected responsibilities are not invalidated when he contractually provides officers for Spokane Valley. Nothing is broken except the art of diplomacy.

Mary Pollard lives in the Greenacres neighborhood of Spokane Valley.


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