From a start in the sciences to her landing in public safety, Debbie Johnson’s path continues to crisscross with the schools where dedicated teachers influenced and inspired her.
Mark Morris science teacher Larry Byman peaked her high interest in the sciences, and her then-English teacher Phil Suek helped literature come to life prior to her 1991 graduation. While at Mark Morris, she was a student athlete and a member of the volleyball, soccer, basketball and track squads.
After studying for a time at Central Washington University, Debbie served a two year stint as a Peace Corps volunteer in forestry and helping women toward prosperity through gardens and beekeeping.
Although testing indicated an aptitude for law enforcement, Debbie earned her degree in marine biology with a minor in chemistry from Central Washington University. Intending to pursue a Master’s Degree after working a while, she got a corrections officer job at the Cowlitz County jail.
“I was fascinated dealing with people at their worst,” she said. After two years, she made the decision to become a police officer. “This was a way to make a difference in the community. It really is a calling.”
Debbie was commissioned in 1999 and spent a couple of years as a patrol officer, then detective, then a school resource officer at her alma mater. In 2009 she was promoted to sergeant. After extensive testing and interviews, Debbie became the department’s first female police captain in 2011. She also started her Master’s in criminal justice from the University of Cincinnati.
She has served on governing boards for the emergency support shelter, the Salvation Army and Cowlitz Substance Abuse Coalition.
Debbie, who also serves as a lay minister in the Community of Christ church, approaches law enforcement with a servant’s attitude. “How you treat people makes a big difference in recovery and healing after an incident.” Her service is an investment in the community she loves—a community that she describes as full of hidden treasures–such as parks, breweries, and restaurants. And, a community of quality people.
As a mother of three children in elementary, middle-, and high school levels, Debbie tips her hat to the education her children have received. And, as a bonus, her younger daughter’s teacher was the daughter of a former Longview Police Chief. “That helped a lot with the stress of being a cop’s kid,” said Debbie.
“People in Longview care—they care enough to even get out and demonstrate their opinions.”
Debbie is a shining example of a Longview graduate who has found her passion and channeled that into a community that she loves.