Liberty Lake’s small, nine-person police department is struggling after longtime officers Mark Van Hyning and Erin Lance recently resigned unexpectedly.
“They basically sent me their two-week resignation notices via email when I was on vacation,” said police Chief Brian Asmus. They both cited personal reasons for their decisions, he said. “It sounded like they were going to get out of law enforcement. It was pretty unexpected.”
Both officers received recognition in 2009 for serving in Liberty Lake for five years. Both also received several other awards for their service during their time with the department.
To cover their shifts Asmus has moved a graveyard shift officer to the day shift and the department’s detective and sergeant are picking up patrol shifts. “We’re kind of covering it in the short term,” Asmus said. “We need people on board as soon as possible.”
The department is already advertising for replacements with at least two years of experience so they can begin work immediately. Asmus said he hopes to have the new officers hired by mid-June. “We’ve gotten lots of response already,” he said. “We’re getting calls from all across the country.”
The department didn’t just lose two officers, however. Lance had the training required to conduct car seat checks and Van Hyning was a K-9 handler. Community donations allowed the department to add a drug dog named J.J. last fall.
“That’s gone,” Asmus said. “J.J. is now a family pet living with Mark. The policy that we have basically stipulated that if he was to leave for any reason after six months as a handler that the dog would go with him.”
There are no immediate plans to replace the dog, Asmus said. “At this point we just can’t,” he said. It would require three months of training to get a new handler up to speed even if another dog could be found. “With already being short-handed, there’s no way we can send anyone to a K-9 handler program.”
Even as Asmus struggles to find solutions to fill the gap caused the resignations he wishes his former officers well. “We’re going to miss them for sure,” he said. “We hope they are successful in their future endeavors.”