A Cup of Joe: Pillars of the police force
By Craig Howard
When Clint Gibson and Ray Bourgeois began working for the Liberty Lake Police Department in 2002, the entire precinct was housed in a space scarcely larger than a meeting room at current LLPD headquarters. The two were the first officers brought on by Chief Brian Asmus following city incorporation in August 2001.
Wade Hulsizer, Mike Thomas and Todd Jordan joined the force after Gibson and Bourgeois as the level of police protection in Spokane County's easternmost jurisdiction went from a single county patrol car to a comprehensive department taking a proactive approach to crime prevention. These days, LLPD consists of 10 full-time officers and two reserves tasked with protecting a community of more than 8,000 residents.
A native of Astoria, Ore., Gibson spent time growing up in Alaska and Deer Park. He worked nearly 30 hours a week at a Deer Park grocery story during his junior and senior years of high school, putting the money away for college.
After completing the administration of justice program at Spokane Community College, Gibson began as a reserve officer with the city of Spokane Police Department in 1996. After that, he worked for police departments in Colfax and Pullman. When Lewis Griffin, former city administrator in Colfax, was hired in the same role with Liberty Lake, he called Gibson and told him the new city was launching its own police force.
Gibson began as a patrol officer with LLPD and was promoted to sergeant six years ago. He has a supervisory role, overseeing the patrol officer corps.
Bourgeois came from a military family and grew up in Germany, California and New York before his family settled in the Tacoma area. After earning his associate's degree, he moved on to the University of Idaho. When he couldn't find a job after college, Bourgeois enlisted in the Army, where he spent eight years.
Bourgeois' first job in law enforcement came in Yelm, a small suburb of Tacoma. Asmus was a reserve officer there when Bourgeois was hired. After Asmus transitioned to Liberty Lake in 2001, he contacted Bourgeois to see if he was interested in interviewing to be a patrol officer in the new city. He was hired in December 2001 as the patrol sergeant and began work on the first day of January 2002. Bourgeois became a detective six years ago, the same time Gibson was promoted to sergeant.
The Splash caught up with Gibson and Bourgeois recently to talk about the history of LLPD, enlisting community support to fight crime and the travails of having a precinct next to a golf course.
Q. What are some of your memories of the police department's first year?
Gibson: When I started, we had two cars that were ours. We were in the building at Greenstone that wasn't even close to a police department. It was basically just two offices and a main lobby area. The community had not had their own police department before but, for the most part, people were supportive toward the department.
Bourgeois: The department was housed in an office in the back of City Hall. We had half-a-dozen guys working in a walk-through space. It was tough. Working out of the one office, all the patrol officers shared one vehicle. At first, we didn't have notebooks, paper, pens, anything. The initial year wasn't anything like I expected.
Q. Has the growth of Liberty Lake changed the dynamic of the police department outside of going from a staff of three to a dozen, counting reserve officers?
Gibson: Our mission is the same, our approach is much the same. We set out to be a proactive agency, and that's still what we are. That's still our goal to be proactive and to minimize the impact of crime in this area.
Bourgeois: For me, it's changed in that I had Clint's job for quite a while. It got to the point that I was on day shift and all I was doing was the follow-ups to the cases that the patrol officers were bringing in.
Q. What do each of you recall about the time the department spent at the current City Hall? That was a 1,500-square-foot space that must have seemed pretty spacious when you moved there in late 2004.
Gibson: It was definitely a step up from the previous building. It felt more secure there as far as the police department goes. The biggest thing that I remember was the constant crashing of golf balls from the Trailhead driving range on our roof. From a cost standpoint, it was definitely beneficial for the city and the police department to be in the same building at that time. I think it helped our visibility in the community because it was a stand-alone government building.
Bourgeois: Being that close to the driving range was a challenge. Some of the patrol cars still have dents in the hoods and the roofs from the golf balls. They finally arranged the range at a different angle. If you were in the backyard at City Hall back then, you could collect 20 golf balls every day. When I morphed into detective, I ended up working with the building inspectors and planning department a lot, so it helped to be in the same building. Eventually, though, we just grew out of that space and parking became a big issue.
Q. In March 2009, LLPD moved from City Hall to a renovated warehouse that would be shared with the municipal library. How did the move to an 18,000-square-foot space impact the department?
Gibson: I was actually very impressed with this building. It was not built to be a police department, but it's worked out well. It's a long-term facility for us. We still have a few cubicles that are available. We've brought in officers from other agencies, and they've been very impressed. We're able to do more with our training program here. It's definitely helped us with our investigations. We have a good lobby/reception area for the community.
Bourgeois: There's actually a story behind that. I was sitting out here in the parking lot doing some paperwork in the car one day. There was a foot of snow outside. The building was empty at the time. The owner of the building drove by and asked if there was a problem. I told him everything was fine. I told him it'd be great to see the police department get a building like this. He said he'd be willing to work with the city on this building. I told Brian (Asmus) and he picked it up and ran with it. When we got into this place, I remember taking a tour - there was just so much space.
Q. As the Liberty Lake police force has grown over the years, is it a challenge to maintain that sense of teamwork and chemistry that you had when you were just starting up and there were only a few officers?
Gibson: I think that's always going to be a challenge no matter where you work, but our police department is a values-based police department. We have eight core values, and we hold our officers to those core values. We have more of a leadership approach than a management approach to our people. You can manage paperwork, but you have to lead people - and that starts with the chief. He leads people, and he's not afraid to delegate.
Bourgeois: There's an open-door policy here. If the guys need to talk to Brian, they can. He prefers they go through Clint first if he can resolve the issue, but Brian's always available, on-duty or off-duty, to talk. It's worked out for us. Brian and I started in a small department, and he's carried that over from there to here. Pretty much all the officers who have been hired here have been lateral officers from other agencies. They have experience. They know what to do out there. Brian and Clint know that. There's an expectation and a trust there.
Q. Have you noticed a difference since 2002 in the way residents here view their community and their role in making it safer?
Gibson: Our citizens really take pride in their community. There was less accountability when the city first started. I definitely like the support of the citizens. The overall support we get from the citizens is phenomenal. This is a police department that takes the time to listen to it citizens, takes the time to adjust patrol tactics depending on what's happening in the community. Residents here realize that the police department is here to help them. The chief expects us to treat people with fairness, respect, empathy and dignity, and we do that.
Bourgeois: From the time we've first started until now, I've seen people more willing to report things they see that are out of the ordinary. They live in the area, they work in the area - they know what's going on in their neighborhoods. They're willing to take that extra step to make their community safer. People here are proactive about preventing crime.