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Doug Clark: With foes like these, who needs to campaign?

Let me get this straight.

Four ex-deputies are trying to bushwhack Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich because – and here’s the choice part – he’s just too darned tough on bad cops who break that promise they made to protect and serve.

And that’s supposed to be a negative?

Come on.

If I didn’t know better I’d accuse the sheriff of orchestrating this bit of amateur theater for re-election purposes.

But that’s not the case.

As hard as it may be to believe, these bellyachers and their “Integrity First” political committee really are this out of touch with what the public expects from those who protect the peace.

So allow me to remind them that …

Fact 1: Knezovich is among the most popular sheriffs to ever hold the position.

Fact 2: The sheriff’s lack of patience for those who dishonor their badge has quite a bit to do with Fact 1.

This side of Knezovich first emerged in 2006, just a couple of months after taking office.

Scandal struck the sheriff’s office when Joseph “Cuppa Joe” Mastel, a 12-year veteran, exposed his junk to an Airway Heights espresso server.

Knezovich canned Mastel quicker than beer through a frat boy.

“I felt I owed it to Spokane County to make sure this didn’t drag out,” said the sheriff to the host of a radio chat show.

That decisiveness endeared the new sheriff to the county.

Knezovich did the right thing. It was still the right move even though Mastel’s termination was later reversed by a bonehead civil service commission.

Knezovich has had to swallow a couple of other firing reversals in recent years. Though obviously frustrating, the reversals haven’t changed one of the sheriff’s core beliefs.

Namely, that law enforcers should be held to the highest standards, and they should act accordingly or find a new line of work.

Knezovich took this philosophy to the state Legislature last session. He stumped for a bill that would make it much tougher for a canned cop to get his or her job back.

It was a fine and noble idea, which meant it was doomed from the get-go.

(What do you expect? This is the Legislature, after all.)

The bill, alas, expired in committee. The status quo prevailed.

Thanks to union rules and arbitration rights, getting rid of prevaricating or crime-committing cops is harder than evicting a hotel bedbug invasion.

Yet the IFers “are really bothered by Ozzie’s unrelenting focus on discipline and changing that law,” stated Dave Reagan, a retired sergeant, in our news story.

Great, Dave. Let’s keep protecting the weakest, rustiest links in the thin blue chain.

Travis Smith, say.

The deputy, as we reported, went O.J. with a knife on the upholstery of a driver’s car. He wrote her up for nine infractions, too.

He didn’t like something she said.

Firing Smith, if you can believe it, was deemed too extreme by an arbitrator.

And how about Larry Zoesch?

You remember Larry. He was the jailer who made a mentally ill inmate strip buck-naked and do jumping jacks.

Canning this self-anointed “jailhouse clown” was a no-brainer.

I would fire him. You would fire him.

My 90-year-old mom would fire him.

Once again, however, an arbitrator defied common sense. The sheriff’s termination of Zoesch was too harsh.

It’s like we’re living in a bloody Bizarro World sometimes, huh?

And let’s not even talk about the fat rewards that some of these fired cops win thanks to the wonders of litigation.

There is one thing I agree with Integrity First about.

And that is their claim that they’re not trying to knock off Knezovich in next year’s election.

On the contrary. If these clowns keep bringing this stuff up, Knezovich may never have to campaign again.

Doug Clark can be reached at (509) 459-5432