Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Branden Platter runs for first term as elected County Prosecutor

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OKANOGAN – Incumbent Okanogan County Prosecutor Branden Platter was appointed to his position to fill the vacancy left when prosecutor Karl Sloan resigned in July 2017 to take a position with the state Attorney General’s office.

Platter recently answered questions from the Quad City Herald regarding his campaign to be elected Okanogan County Prosecutor.

1.  During your tenure as Prosecuting Attorney, what do you consider to be your best accomplishment or moment in the office?
I became a prosecutor for no other reason than to help people.  I wanted to help victims and be their voice when they have been victimized.  I wanted to help protect public safety and hold offenders accountable for their actions.  What I feel to be my best accomplishment is the ability I have had to help victims and make a positive impact in their lives.  There is no one case that I can point to, rather it is the collection of victims that I feel I have been able to help.  I have handled around 50 child sex cases.  That is around 50 kids who were horribly abused that I was able to get justice for.  50 kids that I got to stand up for and be their voice in this process; to help them say to their offender “you did this to me and we are going to hold you accountable.”  I have had the opportunity to see the positive impact this has had in their lives and their ability to begin to heal moving forward.  I view my best accomplishments as my ability to help those kids and the hundreds of other victims that have come through this office.

2. What do you hope to accomplish during your next term if the voters choose you in November?
I hope to continue to help victims and kids.  There are more victims that I can help and I hope to be able to remain in office in order to do so.  Since taking over the position, I have also made improvements aimed at maximizing our stretched resources and the resources of the courts.  I have opened up Drug Court and DUI Court to more participants in order to try to offer treatment to more offenders.  I hope to continue on this path- to stand up for victims, to hold offender’s accountable, and to help get treatment to those who need it and are ready to accept the help.

3. You are in a unique insider’s position to evaluate the prosecutor’s office.  What would you identify as the greatest challenge(s) the position faces?
Our office’s greatest challenge is the same challenge facing every department in the County- resources.  Our office is understaffed and overburdened by cases.  On average, the office files approximately 500 felony cases per year.  Other than myself, who can only handle about a half-load of cases due to the other position requirements, we have only two other felony attorneys to handle this large number of cases.  Our office handles approximately 1,500 misdemeanor cases per year and we have only two misdemeanor attorneys to handle that case load.  Our office struggles to process these cases effectively given such a lack of resources.  We are faced with the unfortunate requirement of having to decline prosecuting some cases simply because we do not have the personnel to handle any additional cases.  Our priority goes to victim-crimes and we are forced to allow some crimes to go un-charged.  I would like to see additional resources for the office so we can better serve the community.

4. How has your time in the office influenced or changed your views about how the justice process performs in Okanogan County?
At times, the justice process in Okanogan County can be slow an inefficient.  Much of this was due to the process tracking on as it always has without anybody taking a look at how the process can be improved.  Since taking office, I have been able to decrease the back-log of cases.  We are now taking cases to trial, or resolving cases, faster than we have since I began working in the office in 2013.  Previously it would often take over a year for cases to go to trial.  We are now holding trials on cases that are sometimes only a few months old, and almost all cases go to trial well within a year.  I have also eliminated some unnecessary court hearings and court processes that were taking time that just did not need to be taken.  I hope to continue to work on the efficiency of my office and see how we can continue to improve the efficiency of the justice process in general.

5. What critical support services like Narcotics Task Force, Child Protective Services, Public Defender, etc., would you like to see strengthened or expanded to help you do your job, and why?
First and foremost, I would like to see the Support Center expanded.  The Support Center is not a county or state-based service, but the program assists to support victims of crime.  My office works closely with the Support Center to help serve and support victims the best we can.  I would like to see more resources provided to the North Central Washington Task Force in an effort to combat our county’s drug problem.  The Task Force currently operates on extremely limited resources.  This makes it very difficult to combat our county’s vast drug epidemic.  I will always support more resources for Child Protective Services.  Child Protective Services has the ability to help kids in a way that my office often cannot.  My office’s authority is limited to that within the context of a criminal case.  Not every offense against children rises to a criminal level and not every offense has sufficient evidence to be prosecuted.  However, Child Protective Services has the ability to intervene in areas where criminal charges cannot be brought. 

6. In what ways do you think that coming up through the local ranks in the prosecutor’s office better equips you to perform the prosecutor’s role than an opponent from outside the office?
Coming up through the ranks of this office has given me a unique ability to assess the areas that the office and our local criminal justice system can be improved.  I have been able to see both what has worked and what has not worked.  I have already been able to institute changes that make the office and justice system function more efficiently.  I am familiar with the budget and have already increased funding to our victim advocate program at no cost to the taxpayer and have saved the county over $40,000 per year in the county’s spending on outside counsel.  I am in a unique position to know both what can be done, and what cannot be done within the budget.  Unlike my opponent who makes blanket statements about how he will cut the budget without ever having seen the budget, I have first-hand knowledge of what can be done with the budget and how to operate within that budget.  I have handled hundreds of cases of every type while being in this office.  I have been through multiple felony trials over the years.  My opponent has had only a handful of felony cases in this county in the last four years and has not had a felony trial in this county in at least the last three years.  My time in this office has given me well-balanced experience in every facet of this position.  I do not need to learn how to do the job as I currently do the job every day.

7. If you have any comments or observations you want to make that the above questions have not covered, feel free to add those.
One of the struggles that comes with this position is the difficulty in keeping the public apprised of what goes on in the office and explaining to the public what the office actually does.  I believe in 100% transparency and honesty.  I do my best to keep the public informed about the decisions being made in the office and the reasons for those decisions.  Our office handles close to 2,000 cases per year.  The public hears about only the few cases per year that the newspapers choose to publish stories about.  It is difficult for us to convey to the public what we are truly doing in the office to try to serve them.  We also get calls and emails frequently asking for help or advice that is simply outside the authority of the office to give.  There is a misconception that our office represents individuals in the public or that our office makes decisions on civil matters before the Board of County Commissioners.  Our office does the best we can to explain the role of the Prosecutor’s Office.  We do not represent individuals in the public, we represent the public at large.  Our office also does not make the ultimate decision on civil matters.  Our job is to advise the Board of County Commissioners about their legal options on civil cases.  The ultimate decision on what action to take is exclusively up to the Board.  Our job is then to defend that decision within the bounds of the law, regardless of our own personal opinions on those matters.  I believe the public has a right to know what goes on in this office and the basis for the decisions being made.  The difficulty is getting that information to the public.

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