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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Sirens & Gavels

Spokane County crime analyst upset by implications of doctoring numbers

Leslie Brockman, a crime analyst with the Spokane County Sheriff's Office, says she and her coworkers have been pulled into a political spat by members of a political action committee critical of Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, Knezovich appeared on several area television newscasts blasting as politically motivated efforts of Integrity First, a group made up of former sheriff's department employees, to obtain public records related to residential burglaries occurring in rural Spokane County during the first half of 2012.

Brockman said Thursday the requests imply that crime analysts somehow cooked the books, a charge she called "insulting."

"They're insulting the whole department," Brockman said.

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A former forensics social worker, Brockman said she and her four colleagues take their jobs seriously. The database queries that produced the numbers cited in Knezovich's news conference can be easily checked by other departments with access to COPLINK, the office's crime database, she said.

"Everything could be easily audited," she said.

Members of Integrity First, a state-registered political action committee with the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission, are identified as Dave Reagan, Jerry Brady, Earl Howerton and Fred Ruetsch on the group's Facebook page. Calls to Reagan and Howerton, both 30+ year veterans of the sheriff's office, were not immediately returned Thursday night.

In a public disclosure request posted Tuesday on the group's Facebook page, Integrity First members call for data to be released relating to statements made in a press release from July 2012 in which Knezovich said a newly formed Burglary Task Force had cut burglary and property crime rates by double digits in unincorporated parts of Spokane County in May and June of that year. 

The group wants raw data, the names of those who computed the statistics and for those folks to show their work. Knezovich has told the media the requests are burdensome and taking his employees from more important tasks, a complaint Brockman echoed Thursday, though data compilation is just part of her job.

"It does take away from other tasks," Brockman said, adding that in his time as public information officer Reagan would rarely visit the Crime Analysis department.

Knezovich also suggested the requests were politically motivated, a charge that members of Integrity First denied in statements to television stations. But Brockman suspects a desire to unseat Knezovich lies behind the records requests and statements of the PAC.

"I think they started out to target the sheriff, but it's gotten bigger," Brockman said Thursday. In a cursory search conducted in COPLINK during an interview in her office Thursday, Brockman found a decline in the burglarly rate throughout the county near 21 percent during the first 7 months of 2013 compared to 2012.

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