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Trainee Injured And Will Not Serve

Department remains understaffed

Audra Fuller, a police officer hired by the Bingen-White Salmon Police Department in May, has suffered an injury and will not be able to continue her law enforcement career.

Fuller was enrolled at the Police Academy in Burien and had been expected to begin her service with the Bingen-White Salmon Police Department this fall.

"The Police Academy released her due to an injury. They felt she could not continue," explained White Salmon City Administrator Pat Munyan.

Munyan explained that the undisclosed injury was serious enough that it precluded her from serving as a police officer. Given the injury, Fuller could not be retained as an employee by the city.

"Her completion of the Academy was obviously a requirement of the job," he said.

Munyan added that Fuller's last day employed by the city of White Salmon was Aug. 30. The city had been paying her salary while she was enrolled at the Police Academy.

Bingen City Administrator Jan Brending said having an officer unable to finish training was relatively rare.

"This is the first time in many years an officer has not completed the Academy," Brending said.

In May, then-Police Chief Bruce Brending praised Fuller as a strong addition to the police force, and pointed out that having a female officer on staff would be a big help to the Police Department.

"Fuller went through the Civil Service testing and finished in the top three," Brending explained. "I interviewed all three, and picked Audra. She is the best fit for what the department needs at this time. Hiring a female officer brings one more element to the department that we were lacking."

Fuller had been expected to graduate from the Police Academy the first week in October, and would have begun patrolling the Bingen-White Salmon community with another officer for an additional 10 weeks after that.

Brending resigned as police chief in August. With Brending gone and Fuller no longer able to serve, the Bingen-White Salmon Police Department is currently comprised of only four officers -- just half of the eight the department would have if fully staffed.

The remaining officers are Sgt. Jim Andring, Officer Steve Shields, Officer Ben Harvey, and Officer Tony Warren. The department also has a full-time clerk/parking enforcement officer in Judi Culp.

Andring, who also has been designated "chief law enforcement officer" for the department, said he hoped the next officer hired would be a lateral hire; i.e., someone who would not have to go through the Police Academy.

"Hiring a lateral officer is more productive faster," Andring said.

However, Andring noted that the budget for the city of White Salmon was in desperate straits.

"The budget issue is scary. Every penny we can save, we're doing that," Andring said. "We're in survival mode. We can hold on, but our overtime budget is running $6,000 a month -- and we have zero left in the budget."

In other police news, White Salmon Mayor David Poucher explained that city ordinances require the city to have a "chief law enforcement officer" -- but not necessarily a police chief.

"RCW 35A.12.020 requires one individual to be the chief law enforcement officer for the department," Poucher wrote in a letter dated Sept. 9. "This person will be the contact person for all communications for the Bingen-White Salmon Police Department. Sgt. Andring will be the person designated chief law enforcement officer and will retain the title of sergeant."

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