Damon Simmons once dreamed of landing an executive leadership position at some point during his law enforcement career.
Liberty Lake is giving him his first chance.
Simmons officially started last week as the city’s new police chief. He replaces Brian Asmus, who was the first police officer hired by the city after the department was incorporated in 2001. Asmus retired at the end of August.
Simmons, who has 20 years of experience, most recently served with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office. The 45-year-old joined the Sheriff’s Office in 2003 after serving as an officer for the Great Falls Police Department in Montana and as a security officer for the U.S. Air Force, according to the police department.
With his hire, Simmons is the only police chief in an Eastern Washington municipality who is Black. Across the region, he joins Eastern Washington University Police Chief Jay Day.
“It really doesn’t have anything to do with color or race,” Simmons said. “I just want to be a positive role model. Period.”
Simmons said he hopes to be an example to anyone – regardless of race, age, sex or otherwise – who feels they have barriers keeping them from their dreams.
“Being a person of color from the south, I grew up around some racism. Not a lot, but it still was somewhat prevalent where I grew up in Texas,” said Simmons, a native of Waco. “For me, I was fortunate enough to have a mother and father who told me just that: Don’t let someone stop you from striving toward whatever dream you may have. I’ve always lived by that.”
Simmons takes control of a department that hopes to be 17 members strong in the near future.
“The No. 1 draw for me was that it was the Liberty Lake Police Department and that it was within the Liberty Lake community,” he said.
Simmons was one of three finalists for the job.
Narrowing the field from a dozen applications, city officials hosted a virtual meeting around early November for the community to meet the top five candidates before the city reached a final three. The meeting was attended by more than 60 people, Mayor Shane Brickner said at the time.
Brickner said in an interview the open house was one of four main parts involved with the hiring process. Candidates also spoke with a citizen panel – which Brickner said included nonprofit representatives, business owners and residents – and a panel of area police chiefs.
The last interviews were with a group that included Brickner, who ultimately made the decision.
“It’s always difficult when you have the bar set so high with our former chief,” Brickner said. “A lot of it was finding someone who was extremely balanced as our former chief was. Through all the feedback I got through all those different groups and through what I saw, Chief Simmons was the clear choice at the end of the day.”
The Liberty Lake City Council unanimously confirmed Simmons’ hire Dec. 15. His salary is $115,000 plus benefits.
Brickner said Simmons’ race was not a consideration.
“I look at the individual,” he said. “The individual before me was a man who has a big heart for the people and is very caring, and an individual that is very well-balanced and can keep a cool head under different situations. I think a lot of people saw that throughout the process. He was one that was consistently discussed as one of the top candidates among everybody.”
Simmons said he first moved out to the Pacific Northwest in 1996 for his Air Force service.
When an injury cut his first tour short, Simmons had to decide whether to train into another role or take a job in law enforcement, he said. Going with the latter, Simmons joined the Great Falls Police Department, where he served as a use-of-force instructor.
After joining the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, Simmons worked in many capacities, including patrol officer and school resource deputy for the West Valley School District. He later served on what is now the Crimes Against Persons unit, where he was part of a task force that investigated technology crimes against children.
Simmons said taking a promotion to sergeant in the sheriff’s office was a tough decision due to his love for his previous job. Becoming Liberty Lake’s police chief was similarly difficult.
“Boy, I have no regrets,” Simmons said. “What a blessed opportunity this has been. … This is such a great community to work for.”
Beyond his career experience, Simmons earned a doctorate in criminal justice from Walden University in 2018, a master’s in administrative justice and security, and a bachelor’s degree in sociology. Other accolades include the Spokane Valley Fire Department’s “Life Saving” Award, the “Everyday Hero” Award from Kiwanis International, the American Red Cross Humanitarian Award and the “Sheriff Star” Award from the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.
Moving forward, Simmons said his top priority is to listen and understand the needs within the community, as well as the police department.
He said his vision is for the agency to provide outstanding service while exhibiting professionalism, morals and ethics through highly trained and dedicated law enforcement personnel and staff.
“That’s where I want to take us. That’s where I want to be,” said Simmons, adding that he plans to pin copies of the vision statement throughout the department. “I always want to be able to provide a high level of service to the community.”
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