Have you ever wanted to tell a politician or police chief to go jump in the river?
Tri-Citians won't have to do that this year, but they will get to a chance to watch some top law enforcers from the Tri-Cities -- and the state's top attorney -- take a plunge into the icy Columbia River.
Kennewick Police Chief Ken Hohenberg will be in good company this year as he jumps in the river for the sixth year in a row as part of Kennewick's annual Polar Plunge fundraiser.
State Attorney General Rob McKenna has agreed to take part in Kennewick's Polar Plunge this year, Hohenberg said.
"He has a real passion for helping children," Hohenberg told the Herald. "But secondly, he really supports the Tri-Cities."
The Polar Plunge is the police department's biggest fundraiser for Special Olympics Washington. And, the Kennewick Police Department has been the top fundraising law enforcement agency in the state for three years in a row.
Last year, the Kennewick Police Department raised $51,000. This year, they almost doubled that.
The 2012 event is set for noon Jan. 21 at the blue bridge boat launch at the east end of Columbia Park.
Hohenberg said McKenna felt so strongly about participating in Kennewick's event that he re-arranged his schedule so he could make it.
McKenna will get a chance to meet some Mid-Columbia Special Olympics athletes before he jumps into the Columbia River. If the winter conditions are normal, the water temperature should be 33 to 36 degrees.
"I don't believe he's ever taken the plunge before," Hohenberg said.
Last week, McKenna made a stop at the weekly meeting of Tri-City police chiefs and sheriffs, and Hohenberg took advantage of the visit to challenge other top cops in the area to join them.
Each year, Hohenberg has asked his fellow law enforcement leaders to jump into the river with him. He hasn't been successful at recruiting them until this time.
He already has commitments from several police chiefs, a sheriff and a prosecutor: Richland Police Chief Chris Skinner, West Richland Police Chief Brian McElroy, Pasco Police Chief Bob Metzger, Connell Police Chief Mike Kessler, Benton County Sheriff Steve Keane and Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant.
"There was a little bit of arm twisting," McElroy said, "but once he made the challenge, of course we had to step up to the plate."
McElroy said he hasn't taken a plunge in an icy river since he left the military, but he was told the water temperature "will be survivable."
Franklin County Sheriff Richard Lathim said he is "going to support us in spirit," Hohenberg said.
Hanford Patrol always has supported Polar Plunge with a team of officers jumping, and this year Hanford Patrol Chief Monty Giulio also will take the plunge with Hohenberg's leadership team.
Rudy Almeida, who serves as a liaison when McKenna is in town, also will see how the icy water feels, the chief said.
Hohenberg said Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller supports the effort but has a scheduling conflict and won't be able to jump with them. Miller recently completed a swim in the Columbia River without a wetsuit to raise money for a teen homeless shelter.
In 2007, the first year of the event, Hohenberg said Columbia Basin Dive Rescue team members gave him a dive suit to help him stay warm, but it didn't fit properly.
Icy water pooled up at his hands and feet and he had a hard time getting out of the water.
"It floated me down river like a turtle," he said.
Hohenberg said he told McKenna and his fellow chiefs and sheriffs that he now wears old shoes, tactical pants and a shirt that he can quickly take off once he gets out of the water.
A jump in the hot tub afterward to warm up really helps, he said, along with changing into dry clothes.
"So far I've never caught a cold or gotten sick," he said, but he admits "it takes your breath away. Once you get it, you definitely want out."
Hohenberg said people tell him he is crazy or stupid for going in the icy water every year. Then he pulls out a laminated photo from the Tri-City Herald that he keeps in the visor in his car.
"All you've got to do is point to the smile," Hohenberg said as he shows the picture of Chief Joseph Middle School student Matthew Bumgarner with a huge smile on his face as he crosses the finish line at a Special Olympics race in May.
All the money raised by the Polar Plunge goes to help local Special Olympic athletes compete at events around the state. It costs about $650 to support each athlete.
"I tell people it's not only a great cause, but a noble cause," Hohenberg said.
Anyone can take the plunge as long as they raise a minimum of $50. Those who want to support Special Olympics but don't want to jump in the water can donate to someone who has signed up, or they can register with $50 in donations to stand in the Chicken Coop -- a joking reference of those "too chicken" to brave the frigid water.
This year, Ben Franklin Transit will be providing shuttle rides so people can park by the Playground of Dreams and ride to the boat launch.
There also will be large video screens positioned throughout the park to help people get a better view of the jumpers.