The push for independent oversight was started by the Center for Justice in 2014.
“Groups like the Center for Justice indicated that we wanted an oversight board that was completely free of bias and who is completely independent from the sheriff and the sheriff’s department,” Rick Eichstaedt with the Center for Justice said.
Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich says independent oversight already exists and he still welcomes suggestions to improve it. The sheriff said the existing citizen’s advisory board is independent. That board sits once a month and its meetings are open to the public. Local civil rights groups feel the board doesn’t have enough clout or visibility.
As an offer of proof of its transparency, Knezovich has invited the Center of Justice to inspect or even expand the board’s powers.
“The Center for Justice has been invited to the table multiple times to take a look at the way Spokane County actually operates and the way the sheriff’s office operates its citizen review board. They have not taken me up on that offer,” Knezovich said.
What the Center for Justice did instead was present a thousand signatures to county commissioners asking them to pass a new ordinance requiring independent oversight, a petition drive started by the sheriff’s enemies but now more reflective a trend toward police accountability.
“While we recognize the efforts of the sheriff’s office to provide an avenue of redress through the citizen’s review board, this entity does not have independent oversight authority,” Liz Moore with the Peace and Justice Action League said.
County commissioners were at other pre-scheduled meetings when that petition was delivered to their office Wednesday. Knezovich said all of the groups present at Wednesday’s rally are still welcome to attend the next citizen’s advisory board meeting which happens the second Monday of every month.