#4ThePeople: Spokane County Sheriff candidates share solutions to crime, Camp Hope, staffing

SPOKANE, Wash. — For the first time in 16 years, there will be a new sheriff in Spokane County.

Two candidates are vying for your vote to replace Ozzie Knezovich. 4 News Now is asking them how they’ll tackle the issues that matter most to you for keeping your family safe.

When it comes to combatting crime, Wade Nelson says current staffing in the department doesn’t allow that.

“We’re not responding adequately,” he said. “Crimes on the rise. Our homeless population is getting out of control, and everything stems from our staffing level not being able to provide that service.”

He says hiring is his top priority. Nelson also says the office needs an overhaul so they can be more competitive with pay and benefits. He also says hiring more people will stop crime.

“Right now, we just go from call to call, chasing calls instead of having the ability to actually focus on who’s really creating that problem and dealing with it,” he added.

John Nowels isn’t convinced hiring will fix the issue by itself.

“If we added 150 deputies to their community, the crime and disorder they are being subject to right now will not be quelled permanently,” Nowels said.

He blames accountability in the criminal justice system. Both Nowels and Nelson also say they want legislators to put more power back in the hands of deputies. Nowels also wants to assign specific deputies to certain neighborhoods.

“I will ensure that we re-focus our efforts on having contact with our communities,” Nowels said.

When it comes to Camp Hope, both say something needs to change. Current Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich is working to clear it out in the middle of October. Neither are convinced that’s possible.

“We need to do it not in six months, not in eight months,” Nowels said. “It needs to be done in the next six weeks.”

“If he goes in there and tries to disperse it, then they’re just going to go back in our community, and we resolved nothing,” Nelson said about the camp.

Nelson says the department should have been involved sooner. He says getting involved now will just make things worse and doesn’t get to the root of the issue.

Nelson is a retired detective, and Nowels is the current undersheriff. Nelson wants to bring a new vision to the sheriff’s office.

“I feel like we need a new leader in there that’s willing to get some fresh eyes on some of the problems, get some innovative new ideas so that we can get our department on track,” Nelson said when asked why he’s running.

It’s a track Nowels has helped guide, and he says doesn’t need to change.

“I am Ozzie 2.0 in the sense that everything Sheriff Knezovich does is for the public,” Nowels concluded. “I will be the same. I feel the same way.”

Your vote will decide a new sheriff for the first time in nearly two decades. Send 4 News Now the questions and issues that matter to you, and we’ll take them straight to the source.

READ: #4ThePeople; Here’s who’s running to be Spokane County’s next sheriff