Thursday, May 28, 2015

Spokane sheriff: police militarization a "myth"

Posted By on Thu, May 28, 2015 at 11:35 AM

Spokane Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich says that there is a new “war on the police” being waged and that it’s a myth that law enforcement is becoming militarized.

Knezovich made the assertions in a correspondence with Blaine Stum, chair of the Spokane Human Rights Commission, who wrote to the sheriff inquiring about military equipment acquired by his agency.

“While we understand the need for police to be prepared for the worst, we also see potential problems that can arise from funneling military equipment to local police departments,” Stum wrote in the letter. “Most notably, research, that is included in this letter, has shown that increased militarization of police decreases the level of trust between the police and the community they are serving and can lead to a greater spiral of violence that disproportionately affects minority communities.”

In recent years, groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union have raised concerns about local law enforcement agencies acquiring surplus military equipment, which they claim results in officers using unnecessarily heavy-handed approaches to routine police work. Earlier this month, President Barack Obama announced that he was taking steps to halt the flow of military equipment to local police forces.

Knezovich responded to Stum’s letter by writing that the ACLU report included false information in its report on police militarization. He also takes issue with research from the University of California Berkeley, referenced in Stum’s correspondence, that suggests that giving police military equipment escalates encounters with the public..

Here’s the text of Knezovich’s response:
I have a presentation I have created that speaks to this issue. Specifically the myth of police militarization. I will need one hour to present, as this is not a blush over of this issue. I look forward to going over the false information provided by the ACLU in their report. Just a prelude to my discussion on this matter. Contrary to what the ACLU presents in their report they never contacted my agency for the data they present as fact about the Sheriff’s Office, nor does their data remotely represent fact. This falsehood is addressed in my current power point which has been presented to the BoCC [Board of County Commissioner].

I look forward to a lively discussion on what is fast become the new war on the police. I use the term war in the spirit of the continual misuse of the term “war” as it relates to police work. With the results of actions taken by city of Baltimore, actions consistent with the UC Berkeley suggestions, which led to the burning of several buildings and the national guard being called out, it will be interesting to see how the Berkeley study holds up to real world activities.
In December, hundreds protested the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office after a remark from a deputy saying that military equipment was needed because of “Constitutionalists” went viral.

In January, Spokane Police Chief Frank Straub responded to a similar letter from the Spokane Human Rights Commission saying that the department had limited military equipment and it wasn’t planning on acquiring more.

The Inlander called Knezovich to ask for a copy of his presentation. Knezovich says he wants to present his research to the public first and will invite the Inlander when he does so. Stay tuned. 

HRC - Spokane Co. Sheriff Police Militarization Letter-2

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