Connell native to become hometown's chief of police

By Tyler Richardson, Tri-City HeraldApril 4, 2014 

Chris Turner

Connell police chief Chris Turner

TYLER RICHARDSON — Tri-City Herald Buy Photo

CONNELL -- Lifelong Connell resident Chris Turner didn't consider applying for the police chief job when it first opened up.

Turner enjoyed patrolling the rural roads of Franklin County as a sheriff's deputy and wanted to retire with the department, he said. His father, Larry, ran Sheriff Richard Lathim's first campaign and was captain of the jail.

Turner got into law enforcement as a teen in the sheriff's office explorer program, shadowing deputies and learning about the department.

However, when former chief Michael Kessler was asked to step down in September amid misconduct allegations, Turner was tapped by local officials as his replacement. Interim Chief Alan Chertok ran the department while city officials searched for Kessler's replacement.

Turner, 41, started his new role as chief this week in the town of about 5,350 people.

"(Turner) was approached and asked to apply," Lathim said. "They were wanting someone they were comfortable with. He had the character qualities to be a good police chief and (is) a good member of the community."

The Connell High School graduate grew up as a wheat farmer and comes from a family with strong ties to law enforcement. He has four children between the ages of 4 and 21, and is married to his second wife, Misty.

Turner's parents, Larry and Pauline, have five children, three of whom joined a law enforcement agency in some capacity. Larry is the public works director in Connell and Pauline works at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center in Connell.

Two of Turner's brothers also work at Coyote Ridge as a supervisor and corrections officer. His brother-in-law was a police officer in Connell and a firefighter in Kennewick before becoming a Baptist minister in Australia.

The strong roots Turner and his family have established in the Connell community were one of the main reasons he was hired as police chief, officials said.

"He's a hometown boy. He's real familiar with the laws and people," said Mayor Bruce "Blacky" Blackwell. "He was a police officer in Connell when he started his career. Now he is ready to lead."

Turner worked as a wheat farmer after graduating high school and joined Connell as a reserve officer in 1994, he said. He then went to work as a corrections officer for Coyote Ridge in 1998. He stayed at the prison for two years before joining Connell as a full-time patrol officer in 2001.

Some political changes in Connell led to Turner deciding to take a position with the sheriff's office in 2007 as a patrol deputy, he said.

"I always wanted to go back and work for Sheriff Lathim," he said. "That was my dream."

Turner was hesitant about leaving the security of the sheriff's office to become a contracted employee in Connell, he said.

But ultimately the opportunity to run the department and provide stability to his hometown police force proved to be an opportunity he couldn't pass up, he said.

Turner agreed to a four-year contract with the city that will pay him just more than $71,500 annually, officials said. He will manage six officers, 10 reservists and oversee office duties until a clerk is hired.

Turner knows the opportunity to jump from deputy to chief of police of a small department is rare and he is ready for the challenge, he said. He plans to take some upcoming certification training to help with the transition.

"My only drawback is that I don't have the executive or supervisory skills," he said. "Not too many people are given this chance. It hasn't been a shock yet. I'm trying to pick up where Kessler left off and fill in the holes."

Turner is hoping to mirror training and policy practices used by the sheriff's office, he said. He plans to adopt the sheriff's office policy manual and tailor it to his department's needs.

Turner also has revamped the firearms certification training program -- which the city said was not up to date under Kessler -- and will require officers to train quarterly.

For now, Turner is focusing on getting settled into his new position and getting used to his new administrative duties, he said. He is confident he has what it takes to lead the department into the future.

"As long as I stay a humble man, keep the community interest in mind and stay responsible with the public's money, I should be all right," he said.

Tri-City Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service