Spokane County voters have two solid choices for Spokane County prosecutor, a choice made all the more welcome because outgoing incumbent Steve Tucker has too often been AWOL when the tough calls had to be made.
Larry Haskell and Breean Beggs say they will not shy away from those decisions, or seclude themselves when the heat is on. Both have also embraced the “Blueprint for Reform” that will guide a reorganization of the county’s criminal justice system. The reforms should broaden the remedies available to public safety officials trying to meet their fundamental responsibility to protect the public while giving willing offenders more avenues for rehabilitation.
We support Haskell, but recognize the qualities Beggs would bring to the Prosecutor’s Office.
He can rightfully claim to be the progenitor of the blueprint, dating back to his helping organize a Smart Justice Symposium two years ago that rallied law enforcement and community leaders to the concept. That meeting followed his successful advocacy for the family of Otto Zehm, the mentally ill janitor who died in the custody of Spokane Police officers.
Beggs says his campaign is intended in part to educate the public about the purpose of smart justice, and the potential long-term cost savings if fewer repeat offenders wind up in jail. Rehabilitate enough criminals, and the county won’t need to build more cells.
Despite a history of working in small practices, Beggs says his experience as a managing partner has given him the experience to oversee the 136 employees in the Prosecutor’s Office, and its $11.6 million budget.
Haskell, a former U.S. Air Force pilot, has worked in the office since 1997, except for a period with the U.S. Attorney’s Office cut short by the federal budget sequestration. He supports the blueprint, noting that some alternative courts that address the special needs of veterans or drug offenders are already in place.
He says “nobody will get a pass,” including law enforcement officials, if he becomes prosecutor, but opposes legislation pushed by Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich that would strengthen disciplinary reviews. Nevertheless, he has Knezovich’s endorsement, as well as the endorsements of most law enforcement unions.
Haskell says he will not retreat into his office, as Tucker has, but use his position instead to explain the law, and his decisions.
Beggs says he can be that spokesman, too, and his advocacy for the Zehms and others wronged by the justice system substantiate that claim.
We are more comfortable with Beggs continuing his watchdog duties outside the office than inside. Haskell has established his leadership qualities not just as an Air Force lieutenant colonel, but also as a member of the Airway Heights City Council and Cheney School Board.
As the Republican in the race, he will also be in a better position to demand more resources from an all-Republican county commission.
No matter who wins, we hope the two will establish a strong working relationship on behalf of a better justice system for Spokane County.
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