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Washington Voices

Police vehicles to be replaced

Sat., Jan. 1, 2011

The most noteworthy thing to happen to the Liberty Lake Police Department last week wasn’t an arrest, it was news that the City Council agreed to buy one new police car and lease a second.

The cars to be replaced have 120,000 miles or more on them, Police Chief Brian Asmus said. “One of them has 153,000,” he said.

Most police departments replace patrol cars once they hit 80,000 miles. “Our plan has always been no more than 100,000 because then you’re talking about reliability issues and mechanical issues,” Asmus said.

But new cars haven’t been funded the past couple of years, forcing the department to make do. In the past the department has only leased new cars. “This will actually be our first outright purchase,” the chief said.

The plan is to get a 4-wheel-drive Ford Escape for the chief to use and a 4-wheel-drive Ford Explorer.

“I don’t really need a patrol car,” Asmus said. But it became clear two winters ago that the department needed more 4-wheel drive vehicles for snowy weather, he explained. “It’s difficult to get around in the Crown Vics, even in the city. I had to put chains on my car just to get around.”

It won’t cost more to go with the beefier cars. The price difference between a standard Crown Victoria police car and a 4-wheel-drive vehicle is only $70, Asmus said.

Three cars will be sold as surplus, including one being used by SCOPE volunteers. Proceeds from those sales will be used to install the lights, backseat cages, computers and other equipment in the new cars.

Ever since the new police building opened on Mission Avenue, Asmus has also had a fence on his wish list. The council granted that one as well last week. Officers use the rear of the building to enter and exit the garage, and the fence will block access to that area. People often walk or drive behind the building as a short cut, and officers are wary of hitting someone when they come out of the building. “Close calls we’ve had, especially with people walking back there,” Asmus said.

Another more worrisome reason for the fence is security. Some people recently arrested have been spotted sitting in parked cars behind the police station. Their unknown intentions make officers nervous, Asmus said. “They don’t want to get ambushed.”

The city will pay $15,000 for fencing materials. Reudi Schuler, the husband of Councilwoman Susan Schuler, owns a fencing company and has volunteered to oversee the project, Asmus said. The officers will install the fence.

Officers made few arrests Dec. 20-27.

A car with expired registration was pulled over Dec. 21 at Liberty Lake Road and Appleway, resulting in two arrests. The driver was arrested for driving with a suspended license, and the passenger was arrested on two warrants and for providing false information to a public official. The woman gave the officer her sister’s name, Asmus said, but reportedly confessed to the lie when she did not match her sister’s description. She told the officer she knew she had warrants and was trying to avoid arrest, the chief said.

Joseph R. Zeigler, 36, was arrested on a charge of felony domestic violence harassment Dec. 26 in the 25000 block of East Hawkstone Loop after an investigation determined he had threatened to kill his wife, Asmus said.

During the week one driver was arrested for driving with a suspended license and driving under the influence. Other arrests included one for driving under the influence, and another for domestic violence unlawful imprisonment.

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