Kiowa County: There's a new sheriff in Greensburg, and he's ready to deal with some old problems
The new year brought another round of swearing in elected officials in Kiowa County. Earlier this month, Kendal Lothman, Sheriff, Richard McVey, Magistrate Judge, Kristi Cooper, County Clerk, Bert Lowery, County Commissioner (District 2), Brenda Osborne, County Treasurer, David White, County Commissioner (District 3), Karen Butler, County Register of Deeds, and Chay Howard, County Attorney, were all sworn into elected positions at the Kiowa County Courthouse. Lothman and White were the only new officials to be sworn in, although this is Lothman’s second stint as the top law enforcement officer in Kiowa County; other's invovled in the January ceremonies were reaffirmed for positions already held previously.
For Lotham, who steps into a position he has held before and who will be faced, right off the bat, with the after-effects of an unsavory arrest by the department last year which involved a vehicle pursuit and mow-down, and a victim-filed lawsuit, there is still much to look forward to as the top law enforcemer in the county.
“I love being home, it’s good. I’ve enjoyed the first week,” said Lothman. “I’ve got a good group of people there it seems like and we are getting to know each other. I’m real happy to be home and back to serving the public that I grew up with.”
Lothman stated in an earlier interview that a main goal of his was for his department to be more in touch with the community.
“[I] hope to build an office that is more in touch with the community and better serve the public,” said Lothman. “I want a Sheriff's office you can trust and be proud of.”
To accomplish this, Lothman is encouraging his staff to get out of their cars and talk with people in the community and business owners. Lothman said he feels that law enforcement in many places has been bad about staying in their protected bubble, and that is something he feels needs to be addressed.
“We’ve got to build the rapport with the public so we’re more approachable. I don’t want there to be a barrier there between the public and the law enforcement,” said Lothman. “Right now across the nation we are seeing that. Law enforcement is not very liked sometimes and some of that they have brought upon themselves. I think the way we fix that is we build those relationships and we build that trust.”
For Lothman, good rapport goes beyond communicating with someone during a call. He thinks the real trust is built when an officer stops to visit with people in the community and creates those relationships.
The Kiowa County Sheriff’s Office recently came under the national spotlight after a dash cam video emerged of sheriff deputy Jeremy Wilkerson-Rodriquez running over Lionel Womack, a fleeing Black man who was wanted in several jurisdictions for outstanding warrants. That August 15 incident is currently being investigated by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. Once this investigation is completed, Lothman said that his department can start mending any damage done.
“We’re still in the initial stages [of the investigation], we don’t have a lot of information. We’re letting KBI and the attorney general’s office finish their investigation,” said Lothman. “Right now we just have to wait for them to finish their investigation to see what the outcome is going to be.”
Lothman said he did not have a timeline for when the investigation will be completed.
Most recently, Lothman served as a Lieutenant with the Pawnee County Sheriff's Office. He was the Kiowa County Sheriff from January 2009 through November 2014. His staff is very similar to the staff that served under past-previous sheriff Chris Tedder, with the only major difference being the undersheriff. Clay Parkin, who was the undersheriff in 2014 when Lothman left office, is once again back with the department as undersheriff.