Commentary and information about public safety and security, intelligence and counterintelligence, open government and secrecy, and other issues in northern Idaho and eastern Washington.

Location: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States

Raised in Palouse, WA. Graduated from Washington State University. US Army (Counterintelligence). US Secret Service (Technical Security Division) in Fantasyland-on-the-Potomac and Los Angeles. Now living in north Idaho.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

From Plated Pot Metal to 22-Karat Gold

Law enforcement badges are often made from a cheap metal base with a shiny plating that conceals the defects beneath the surface. With the September 11 swearing-in of new Spokane Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick and the September 19 primary election landslide victory of Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, the badges of their respective agencies have been transformed symbolically if not metallurgically from plated pot metal to 22-karat gold. It will take some time to see if these 21st-century law enforcement executives can complete the transformation to be worthy of a 24-karat appraisal.

There are likely to be some personnel changes at all levels in both departments.

Because both agencies now have proven leaders, they should experience an upswing in exceptionally well-qualified applicants. Why? Well, if you want a progressive career with increasing responsibility and not just a dead-end job in law enforcement, you will want to work for and learn from leaders like Chief Kirkpatrick and Sheriff Knezovich. Chief Kirkpatrick and Sheriff Knezovich will set high standards of ethical conduct and professional performance for line officers and deputies. They will set even higher standards for line and staff supervisors in their departments. Good entry-level officers and deputies need good training and supervision. Good training and supervision attract exceptionally good applicants and scare away sluggards. Setting high standards of conduct and performance for line and staff officers and deputies inspires public trust and confidence. The public in Spokane wants to trust its law enforcement officers again.

Some people may be concerned that to advance in their careers, exceptionally well-qualified Spokane officers and sheriff's deputies will move to other agencies. That will happen. That should happen, and the persons encouraging those exceptional officers and deputies to advance should be Chief Kirkpatrick and Sheriff Knezovich. I suspect that rather than trying to subjugate their employees, the Chief and Sheriff will be working hard to elevate the professional and supervisory skills of all their employees so that when one leaves for career advancement with another agency, there will be another employee ready to fill the vacancy. Leaders like Chief Kirkpatrick and Sheriff Knezovich know that a continuum of experience in all levels of their departments is essential and not just desirable. Mobility between departments is much less harmful to agencies than stagnation from within. Spokane law enforcement has experienced enough stagnation.

I'm quite sure that both Chief Kirkpatrick and Sheriff Knezovich will make some changes in their staff officers and deputies. Neither is likely to make the changes whimsically or retributively. They both know they need good staff officers and deputies. They are likely to retain the competent, reassign the marginal, and wish the deadwood a nice retirement. That's as it should be.

Spokane city and county residents should step out on their porches and take a look toward the city-county public safety building. Even with the clouds and fog and rain in today's skies, the shine you see is from real gold. The plated pot metal is on its way out of Spokane.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bill, hope springs eternal. The next 2 weeks will tell. Let's see if either drag their feet in the firehouse and Otto Zehm scandal. What about Spokane's good ol' boy prosecutor who promotes a culture of back slapping protectionism and is scared of the police and firefighter unions? Did I call this right?

10:14 PM, September 20, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bill, hope springs eternal. The next 2 weeks will tell. Let's see if either drag their feet in the firehouse and Otto Zehm scandal. What about Spokane's good ol' boy prosecutor who promotes a culture of back slapping protectionism and is scared of the police and firefighter unions? Did I call this right?

10:15 PM, September 20, 2006  
Blogger Bill McCrory said...


I suspect the biggest changes to come from the Zehm death will be policy changes to change cops' perception that they must rush headlong into a situation rather than backing off and waiting. Officer Thompson's response was "acceptable" and "right" according to present policies, but it was definitely not the best or safest way to handle it. There are times when immediate action is called for; this was definitely not one of them. However, Thompson did what his trainers and supervisors expected and trained him to do, so he'll get a pass from the department.

The two SPD detectives, Peterson and Gallion, who encouraged a suspect to destroy evidence of a felony deserve to be fired and prosecuted. Their's was not a perception of risk situation like Thompson's in Zehm. Their's was a calculated but unprofessional and immoral response to what they perceived (or maybe were told) their superiors in city government wanted. They lacked the courage and integrity to refuse to play the city government's long-played game. Fire 'em and prosecute 'em.

That, of course, won't happen, because the Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker wants to be tough on crime as long as it's not crimes committed by cops and firefighters. Sadly for Spokane County (and for Chief Kirkpatrick and Sheriff Knezovich), Tucker may be the least worst of the three choices for county prosecutor in November. Reierson is an indecisive flake, and Caruso is inexperienced and has said some incredibly stupid things. All three are really bad choices.

7:03 AM, September 21, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bill, at least Reierson and Caruso had the stones to run against Tucker and bring out some of the issues concerning cover ups, cronyism, and lncompetence on Tucker's part. One of the frustrating things about HBO, is tfolks criticize a public official, then criticize the folks who challenge incumbents. It is hypocritical of the SR to endorse Tucker after the latest fiascos.
Well, it looks like Caurso is the guy and Reierson will be the attack dog. did you know that Reierson lobbied succesfully in Olympia for a felony DUI while Tucker refused to do so? I think Caruso will fare better than folks at the SR think.

BTW, we all have a dog in this fight if you live in Spokane.

9:18 PM, September 21, 2006  

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