The face of Kennewick police, Ken Lattin, is seeking to become the next Benton County sheriff.
The sergeant and public information officer announced Tuesday that he wants to replace Benton County Sheriff Steve Keane, who is retiring for medical reasons.
The Benton County Republican Party will choose three sheriff’s candidates to submit to the Benton County commissioners before Keane leaves April 1. Then the position will be up for election this fall.
“This is an appointment process and not a campaign, although the campaign for me does start here,” Lattin said. “Whether I am appointed or not, I am going to run in the fall.”
His priorities would be the 800-bed jail, mental health services for inmates, lowering recidivism, public transparency and improving partnerships with other agencies.
He’s concerned about funding for the jail.
“As we know, the recent decision that the county can’t incarcerate people who just owe fines,” Lattin said. “That’s what the ACLU calls debtor’s prison.”
Also, he wants to improve how law enforcement officers handle people with mental illnesses.
“We’ve got to get them to a place of safety, so (officers) end up booking them into the jail,” he said. “It’s not necessarily the place for them. The jail wasn’t designed to handle mental health issues.”
He supports the mental health court to determine the best help for such people rather than just jailing them.
“They need help. They need to get back on their meds,” he said.
We will be transparent, so people in the county know what is happening.
Lattin said the best way to determine the success of a jail is to determine how often inmates are being reformed or returned – the recidivism rate. New programs could help people find a better way in life to avoid returning to jail.
“The jail is a great place for criminals. It keeps us safe from people who steal or hurt other people, but people who are addicted to drugs aren’t necessarily in that category,” said Lattin. “We make criminals out of them just by incarcerating them. That’s a bigger nationwide problem that we can start working on right here in Benton County.”
Supporting the drug court and alternative sentencing to help people addicted to drugs has proven to be very effective, he said.
Part of his plan to work with the community is by being open about law enforcement activities.
“We will be transparent, so people in the county know what is happening,” Lattin said.
His 28 years of working as a police officer in Benton County taught him how to make law enforcement better by improving how they treat people. It was a lesson learned supervising the traffic control unit.
“Treat everybody you come into contact with whether it’s a suspect, whether it’s a victim, whether it’s a witness, whatever the case may be, treat them as you would want your family member treated by another officer or deputy,” he said. “Just use that rule of thumb, and that’s treating people right.”
The sheriff’s salary is about $123,000 a year.