Sheriff Knezovich drafts amendment to law


by & Hayley Guenthner

Posted on February 13, 2013 at 6:01 PM

Updated Wednesday, Feb 13 at 7:26 PM

SPOKANE COUNTY -- More than three dozen employees of the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office and Jail were accused of serious wrong-doing over the past few years, from lying to adultery.

As the law stands now, law enforcement officers caught committing a crime while on duty may be able to keep their job.

Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich is fighting for change.

He drafted an amendment to change the state law.

Senate Bill (SB 5668) states if an officer has been found to have committed an illegal act or an act of dishonesty while on duty and has been fired, an arbitrator cannot overturn the termination if due process was followed.

Knezovich points to a State Supreme Court ruling that there was no public policy that prevents the employment of dishonest police officers.

He said over the past five ears, the ability of a sheriff or chief to enforce high standards in reference to ethical conduct has been eroded.

The Sheriff wants to avoid situations like the one he had to deal with when Deputy Joe Mastel, a 12-year veteran of the force, was accused of exposing himself to a barista. After conducting a thorough investigation, Knezovich ruled to fire Mastel.

That decision was overturned and Mastel ended up serving a suspension, and then retiring from the department.

Knezovich said those in law enforcement should be held to a higher standards in order to ensure the public’s trust.

The Sheriff is set to testify before the State Senate Law and Justice Committee in Olympia regarding his proposed amendment on Friday at 8:00 a.m.

The proposed amendment is supported by all 39 elected Sheriffs in the state.

It could take several weeks before the amendment is approved.