WHITMAN — Police Chief Scott Benton retires on Monday, Sept. 16 after a 33-year career in law enforcement.
He said he is looking forward to a new era and plans to remain productive however he is looking forward to a greater quantity of downtime.
With two new grandchildren, and another arriving in the coming year, he is looking forward to being a papa along with traveling with his wife Kathie.
His influences in his profession were his father and his uncle who were both police officers, but he didn’t decide until halfway through college to begin his law enforcement career. Benton said from the beginning of his career through the end his clearest intentions were helping others — which drew him to the badge at the start.
“I certainly believe in what a police officer stands for,” Benton said. “You level the playing field on the domestic front- you make it fair for everybody.”
Step by step he climbed the ladder in the Whitman Police department in the community where he grew up. Beginning as an auxiliary officer. In September 1986, to a permanent reserve officer in May 1988 he was a full time patrolman in January 1990 and within two years became the first DARE officer for the Town of Whitman.
He made sergeant in May 1994, detective sergeant in 1997, followed by deputy chief in 2008, and Chief in 2012.
“When they need your help they are usually desperate. It doesn’t need to be a life and death thing but when people come to you (the police) they are looking for your help,” he said.
He has reunited with a few victims over the years who, he recollects, were at a disadvantageous place in their life. The circumstances involving child victims are the ones he will not forget but various occasional triggers evoke memories of other cases from his career.
Like all first responders, being an officer on the street can bring daily occurrences that leave residual emotions inked on the soul.
It has remained an unspoken bond in one particularly horrific domestic case; the victim would likely have been killed if they didn’t reach her on time.
He describes himself as a protective father with an incredible family bond. There were periods of time in their personal lives that he felt his children had endured comments and mistreatment because of his profession. Nonetheless he has no regrets in the choices he has made.
He recalls his own father paying for college while he was a kid cutting classes. He acknowledged that his father gave him a great opportunity to be anything he wanted. In a joking manner he remarked that his father just got smarter and smarter every year. He plans to retire on Sept., 16, that would have been his father’s 80th birthday. He passed away in the fall of 2018.
Benton has witnessed numerous transformations in society over his three decades involving relationships between citizens and officers, one topic of concern he has raised is the use of police body cameras.
“If I was a police officer today I would want to have a body camera to protect myself so that the entire incident was captured,” he said
Based on social media it is unfair of someone to post what they want you to see from an incident that took place- however most of the time that is not the full story.
At the end of the day that’s all we can ever ask for in life is to be treated fairly, he said.
Benton will pass the torch to Deputy Chief Timothy Hanlon also a long time career Whitman officer.
“I was lucky to have Tim (Deputy Chief Hanlon) he has been a great partner in this. He will lead Whitman to its next chapter. I know he will do a great job. “
In terms of being remembered as chief Benton said, “I‘d like to think I was a policeman who just happened to become a chief for a little while.”