Press Release


Open Letter From Sheriff Clay Myers

Kittitas County, WA - 12/17/2019 -

"Open Letter From Sheriff Clay Myers"

‘If it’s not yours, don’t take it’
‘If it’s not true, don’t say it’
‘If it’s not right, don’t do it’

These words, simple and clear, define the expectations we have of each other. They transcend race, religion, gender and age. Diversity in our community does not bring differing expectations to these words, but it does bring differing expectations to how we address those in our society who choose to violate them.

We have reached a new era in law enforcement with respect to society’s expectations in accountability and transparency. In order to meet the future demands on law enforcement, we have to modify our business model across the board. As a law enforcement industry, we must ensure our processes, procedures and operations, are in compliance with Federal, State and Local laws. Not only must we meet these requirements, we need to build a relationship with our community that assures trust and support.

We are at the beginning of the greatest growth period this county has ever experienced. This growth will bring a new level of diversity, expectation and complication to nearly every aspect of our critical infrastructure and our residents. If properly managed, this growth will also bring opportunity for new programs, mitigation to high impact areas, and may provide commercial and residential benefit.
This type of management requires specific authority and responsibility in the sheriff’s command structure. To that end, effective January 1, 2020 the Kittitas County Sheriff’s Command Structure will be as follows:
Sheriff Clay Myers: Responsible for the overall management of the Sheriff’s Office and Emergency Management for the county.
Sheriff’s Administrative Assistant Kim Dawson:  Is the Office Manager, Public Disclosure Officer and Human Resource Officer.
Jail Superintendent Steve Panattoni:  Responsible for the day to day operations of the jail facility, staff, inmate care & custody, programs, finances, and court house security, to include implementation of court mandates and processes.
Chief Deputy Darren Higashiyama: Responsible for the sheriff’s administrative operations, records, finance, civil, property, technology and policy. Also responsible for the development, maintenance and implementation of the county emergency management plans, training and response. Lead in EOC operations.
Chief Deputy Ben Kokjer: Responsible for the day to day operations of the Patrol Division, Major Crimes Unit, internal investigations, Reserves, Citizen Patrol, SAR, Marine Unit, Dive Team, and  EOC operations.
Inspector Chris Whitsett: Responsible for internal compliance with respect to finance, acquisition, property, policy, procedures, operations, personnel, and also responsible for Capitol Project Management.
One of the primary goals of this new business model is to insure we are: (a) operating within the law and (b) we are meeting the public’s expectations.  The establishment of a compliance officer will insure we properly address item (a) properly addressing item (b)  will require a much broader solution. One of the most common mistakes we can make is convincing ourselves we have a clear understanding of our community make up and expectations. We use statistics, published articles and we listen to those who take the time to come in and see us. This generally gives us a small snapshot. We believe the only way to truly understand your community is to establish a one on one relationship.
We have over 40,000 citizens in our community. It is unrealistic to believe we can meet with every one of you, but we can certainly work towards it. To that end, the second portion of our new business model is replacing a segment of our random patrol hours with directed patrol aimed at physically meeting with the public one on one. Your deputies will work towards meeting with residents on every road, while the command staff will work towards meeting with businesses and municipalities.
The goal of these specific meetings is to provide a realistic view of the services we can provide and to hear first-hand what you as an individual would like to see from your sheriff’s office. So, beginning in January of 2020 you will begin to see deputies in your neighborhood who are looking to hear what you have to say.
The most obvious question pertaining to this new model, will this take away from the primary law enforcement responsibilities? No, it will not. This will become one of our responsibilities and will be placed in the priority matrix along with all of the rest: Public safety, criminal investigations and apprehension, search & rescue, emergency planning, response, recovery and mitigation of future events.
In closing, it is an honor to have been selected to serve as your Sheriff and I look forward to continuing to strengthen our relationship within our community that assures trust and support.

Kittitas County, from the Cascades to the Columbia, and online at


Contact: Sheriff Clay Myers, 509-962-7525,