Arrow-right Camera
Subscribe now

This column reflects the opinion of the writer. Learn about the differences between a news story and an opinion column.

Doug Clark: Union attack on Ozzie Knezovich’s faith bigoted, sleazy

Sure, I knew the deputy sheriffs union had it in for Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich.

The sheriff believes anyone worthy of wearing a badge should be able to hold off from doing the dance with no pants until after the shift ends.

While the union’s attitude is more like …

“Don’t come a-knockin’ if the squad car’s a-rockin’.”

Differences this vast are bound to cause, um, friction.

Sarcasm aside, never in my wildest imaginings did I think these union reptiles would crawl so low as to try to use the sheriff’s choice of churches against him.

But read it and weep, my friends.

The ugly truth is found on page 3 of an unfair labor practice complaint that the Spokane County Deputy Sheriffs Association filed recently against Knezovich.

The action comes in response to the sheriff’s firing of Scott Kenoyer last summer for having sex on duty.

And I quote …

“Knezovich is an adherent to the Mormon religion.

“As established in his disciplinary decisions, Knezovich has reflected a belief that personal morality consistent with the tenets of the Mormon faith should be used as a guide to determine whether or not an appointed Spokane deputy sheriff should be subject to discipline.”

Keep going. It gets better.

“The Association, on the other hand, believes that both the sheriff and deputy sheriff position are secular offices and should be guided by secular legal norms alone and …”

Ohhh, I get it.

The sheriff didn’t fire Kenoyer because of some generally accepted morality that on-duty cops should have the self-restraint to keep their zippers zipped. That was just Ozzie’s Mormonism talking.

Are you as offended by this as I am? I hope so.

Where the sheriff chooses to worship should be nobody’s business. Using it as a political talking point in a labor dispute is about as sleazy and shameful as it gets.

“It’s 2014. These types of biases are supposed to be gone,” the sheriff said during an interview this week about the complaint.

Knezovich told me he is adamant to never mix his faith with his lawman duties.

“I don’t mention religion,” he added, “I won’t.”

If you want to blame anyone for the sheriff’s hair-trigger sense of right and wrong, blame George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

Those are the role models Knezovich said he most admired as a kid.

The union’s taking a shot at his denomination, he said, is “taking a shot at all Christian denominations.”

He’s right. Although you can bet that the deputy association would never have gone down this road were Knezovich Catholic or Baptist.

Mormonism is just different enough for gutless bigots to pick on.

What the deputy sheriff association doesn’t know, however, is how badly this will bite them in the backside.

With apologies to old George and Honest Abe, the values Knezovich represents the most are those held by the folks who vote and pay taxes and don’t care for bad cops.

Since his appointment as sheriff in 2006, Knezovich has never been shy about voicing his belief that law enforcers should be held to the highest standards, collective bargaining contracts be damned.

Knezovich has twice pushed for legislation to make it easier to terminate or decertify cops who break the law or lie like rugs while on duty.

All that said, it’s important to note that Knezovich didn’t fire Kenoyer outright.

He gave the deputy a second chance to save his job by signing a “last-chance agreement.” That would have allowed Kenoyer to be terminated and then reinstated after a 90-day suspension with limited rights to file future grievances.

It was more of a break than I would have given this clown.

Not that it matters. The deputy association didn’t like the terms and Kenoyer dumbly refused to sign.

Bet that deal doesn’t look so bad right now, huh?

The Spokesman-Review columnist Doug Clark can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or dougc@spokesman. com.

More from this author