Doug Clark: Coppers could learn from area criminals


The suspicious behavior of Deputy Todd Saunders has me deeply concerned about the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

Saunders, if you missed it, was put on paid administrative leave the other day for parking his marked squad car for long periods of time outside a West Plains residence that is not his.


The neighbor who alerted another deputy about this claimed Saunders’ vehicle was parked at the residence “all hours of the night” and with the motor running, no less.

Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said Saunders spent so much time there that, “many people thought he lived there.”

Now don’t expect me to go all Al Gore over this.

If true, this represents an enormous waste of gas, not to mention the huge amount of polar-bear murdering carbon byproducts being pumped into the ozone layer.

But I own a 1967 Vista Guzzler station wagon.

Who am I to judge anyone for harming the environment?

Nor will you see me riding a moralistic high horse over what might or might not have been going on inside that West Plains abode.

According to Knezovich, the woman who lived at the home and her adult children were not being cooperative with investigators.

Granted, this revelation encourages salacious conjecture.

But for all we really know, Saunders could have been racing slot cars or playing ping-pong.

And I’ll be replacing Sally Struthers in the next road production of “Hello, Dolly.”

The point being that until more gnarly details emerge, only Saunders and his police union liar, I mean, lawyer, can say what was really going on.

What does bother me, however, is that as much as I like the sheriff, this incident points to an embarrassing lack of professionalism.

A well-trained law enforcer should know that running a parked prowl car would fuel neighborhood gossip.

There’s only one time when it makes perfect sense to leave an engine running, and that’s outside of the bank you’re about to go in and rob.

Any second-rate criminal or elected official will tell you that NOT raising suspicion is the key to every clean getaway.

Seasoned cat burglars, for example, will park a block or two away from where they will be, um, working.

And I don’t think it’s unfair to expect our cops to be as smart as the riffraff they’re trying to bust.

Maybe if this Saunders thing were an isolated occurrence we could all look the other way.

But Deputy Charles Sciortino was placed on administrative leave just days before Saunders made the news.

Sciortino’s trouble came from working a second job at a retail store while he was supposed to be on patrol.


Normally, I would applaud such a strong work ethic as the sort of thing that made America great.

Sheriff Knezovich, however, pointed out that Deputy Sciortino is being formally investigated for the theft of $700 worth of pay.

That’s another old-fashioned way of looking at it, I suppose.

I hate to be Capt. Obvious here.

But every law enforcer should know the value of wearing wigs and other ID-cloaking disguises. Male officers have even been known to wear dresses now and then depending on the assignment or Police Guild party theme.

And as long as we’re on this depressing subject, I can’t help but think of Scott Kenoyer. This is the sheriff’s deputy who wound up being canned last year after he admitted to having sex on duty.

“This was sex on duty,” said the sheriff at the time, “and you just don’t do that.”

Holding off for a lunch break was just too much to ask, I guess.

You know, I’m beginning to think that common sense isn’t being taught in the cop academies anymore.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by email at


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