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Opinion >  Column

Doug Clark: Knuckles aren’t the only thing brass about Kevin Smathers

The plot sickens:

We’ve got this Spokane fire captain, Kevin Smathers, who supposedly kept illegal brass knuckles in his city vehicle and stored city-issued firearms in his personal safe.

And so Smathers gets fired last month.

But not for the above, um, unusual weaponry, but for allegedly threatening the lieutenant who ratted him out.

Now, however, Smathers is suing the city for $2.5 million.

The fire captain claims his being axed (har!) was in retaliation for previously tattling on the aforementioned lieutenant, whom Smathers claimed drove city vehicles while drunk and sometimes armed.

Cue the music.

It’s time for another installment of that occasional Spokane soap opera …

“As the SFD Burns.”

Stop. Before we go any farther, I’d like to address one part of this hook-and-ladder kerfuffle that I have difficulty swallowing.

And that is that one of our fine Spokane fire captains would be caught with a pair of brass knuckles.

Need I remind you how bloated the salaries of Spokane fire captains are?

(Hint: 37 of them made the Forbes 400 list.)

With what we pay them, a Spokane fire captain wouldn’t carry anything less than platinum knuckles.

And probably diamond-studded knuckles, to boot.

Brass knuckles?


This must be what the mayor means about Spokane being the “City of Choice.”

You know, I was actually quite relieved when I heard about this.

The last SFD scandal, after all, involved a pervert firefighter who snapped nudie photographs of a teenage girl INSIDE THE OL’ FIREHOUSE!

Quite frankly, I’ll take brass knuckles and guns any day over a sparky who can’t control his hose.

Question: Where does the careful consumer go to find quality brass knuckles these days?

Besides the Spokane Police Department interrogation room, I mean?

I was under the assumption that brass knuckles disappeared with Mickey Finns, bent-brimmed fedoras and Bogart movies.

Being naturally curious, I performed a “brass knuckles” search on eBay. To my surprise, I found a bevy of brass knuckles to be had.

Unfortunately, these items are intended for decorative use. Brass knuckle necklaces. Brass knuckle charms …

There’s even a brass knuckle case for your iPhone.

The thing’s plastic, so if you try to break a stoolie’s teeth, the only scream you’ll hear will be Siri’s.

Perhaps life at the Spokane Fire Department is more violent than anyone thought.

A pair of brass knuckles just might come in handy if some rookie, say, burns the chili and a brawl breaks out.

Looking for more answers, I attempted to discuss the SFD scandal with a high-ranking local official in government.

Here’s what he actually said:

OFFICIAL – “Do you know why the Spokane Fire Department doesn’t have a track team?”

DOUG – “Uh, no. Why?”

OFFICIAL – “Because they’ve never learned how to run away from a fight.”

Good gawd.

As it turns out, the most horrifying plot device in our soap opera doesn’t involve brass knuckles, misappropriated handguns, whistle-blowers or boozed-up fire officials.

No, the most horrifying element is contained in the following five words excerpted from our news story:

“… said Smathers attorney Bob Dunn.”

Dunn again. This doesn’t bode well.

Dunn’s the hired gun who once compared an off-duty cop’s boozing bad behavior with epilepsy.

Every time Dunn enters a courtroom, the “Jaws” theme mysteriously starts playing.

The ’72 Dolphins envy Dunn’s win record.

Smathers won’t need brass knuckles anymore. The city’s about to get seriously worked over without them.

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

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