Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich and His Bully Pulpit
by Shari Dovale
Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich has been doing a radio podcast show for a few years. It is called the “Sheriff’s Report” and is billed as the region’s only public safety radio talk show. As he is sure to do this show while in uniform, it seems appropriate that he handle public service announcements.
But what if he should stray from this premise and do shows for his election campaign? How about doing shows that border on slander of local citizens? Would this be appropriate for a uniformed Sheriff? Is this what the taxpayers are paying for?
Recently, this seems to have been what happened. Knezovich recorded a series of podcasts with his guest, John Smith, all about pointing fingers at locals and labeling them with the stigma of “White Supremacists”.
Smith is a former State Senator that was appointed following Senator Bob Morton’s retirement. He lost his seat during his first election bid to Ferry County Commissioner Brian Dansel.
Knezovich described his guest as being called a disgraced WA State Senator, claiming that the same people they will be talking about ‘tagged’ him as a White Supremacist. They went on to explain his guilt-by-association for being raised in a household that had such beliefs.
Though I can understand his personal bitterness at being defined through no fault of his own, it makes me wonder how Smith so easily flips over to do just that same branding to others. It does seem a bit like vindictive retribution, but let’s see what they actually say.
Smith spends all three podcasts describing what he believes to be the basis for the “Christian Identity” and “White Supremacist” movements. He names specific people in his monologue, rehashing various talking points and discussing old headlines.
During his lecture, Smith spends considerable time discussing Pastor Pete Peters. Personally, I do not know much about Peters so I was interested in hearing a first-hand account, until Smith said that he never attended Peters’ meetings himself. It just became more regurgitated Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) talking points then.
Finally, Knezovich and Smith got to their point. They wanted to make everyone wary of a community in Stevens County (outside of his jurisdiction) called “Marble Country”. This is a faith-based community that holds an event each year during the summer called “Marble God & Country Celebration”. I have been to this festival in the past and can give a firsthand account.
I have taken the time to get to know Anne Byrd, wife of Pastor Barry Byrd, founders of Marble Country. I have seen nothing that would indicate a White Supremacist ideology, nor heard any discussion of people of Jewish descent being descendants of Satan, as Sheriff Knezovich claims.
I have always made it clear that I support Israel, and believe the Jewish people are a chosen people of God. I did not hide that belief when I went to Marble, and was still fully embraced and welcomed by the residents and guests.
Knezovich goes on to name several local citizens, including, of course, Representative Matt Shea. I knew to expect that name, as Knezovich has seemed to make it his special mission to theatrically escalate his personal animosity for Shea. The public has been made privy to their ongoing battles for several years.
Smith and Knezovich spend each successive podcast denigrating several people, characterizing them as white supremacists and haters, as well as making unverifiable claims that these specific folks are trying to take over the local government and begin a civil war.
As many times as they name these folks, it becomes obvious that this is purely personal for the Sheriff. He has allowed his opponents to get into his head and take over his thoughts. He seems consumed by them.
At one point, Knezovich claims that the Libertarians want to take over the Republican party, and this, apparently, is Ozzie’s idea of proof that they want to take over the local government.
You can see Sheriff Knezovich, looking sharp in his starched uniform, spending three full shows on conspiracy theories, calling out his enemies, labeling them with hateful names, and even going so far as to bring up his opponent in his reelection campaign.
To be fair, I believe the Sheriff recorded these podcasts before Scott Maclay was killed in an accident near St. Maries last week. Maclay, who legally changed his name to DumpOzzie Dot Com, will stay on the ballot for the upcoming election as an opponent to Knezovich.
It is a bit sad that this popular sheriff comes off sounding paranoid about his position. He claims that even former Arizona sheriff Richard Mack was being asked to come run against him in this election. And he talks repeatedly of direct threats that he has to live under, yet no one has been held accountable for any threats against the sheriff of which I am aware.
Before he finishes, the Sheriff makes a point to say that this show was not meant to be offensive, but was designed to be informative. I must disagree. Knezovich has come off as a petty, disagreeable man that has used his public platform for personal attacks.
He has thrown as much as he can towards the wall, just to see if something will stick. Naming people as racist or claiming they want to overthrow the government are serious charges. Just being in law enforcement does not automatically give you a free pass to vilify someone.
I have always supported my local law enforcement, and this will not change. However, I do not necessarily support individuals, especially when they seem to be running a smear campaign for political gain on the taxpayer’s dime.
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