Kynett makes ‘heartbreaking decision’ to leave LPD

By 
Jasmine Hall
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Working a regular 9-to-5 felt unfamiliar to former Livingston Police Department Patrol Officer Jessika Kynett as she drove home from her first day on the job in Bozeman Wednesday.

In the field of public safety for 18 years and law enforcement for the past nine years, Kynett, 35, made the difficult decision to hang up her uniform after partial double vision from a horseback riding accident kept her from returning to patrol. 

 “It was getting close to where policy states a person can only be on light duty for so long and they could legally terminate my employment,” Kynett said over the phone Wednesday evening. “So I had to realistically make a decision, and it was a heartbreaking one, but I had to be employed.”

Following her accident, Kynett said she was diagnosed with fourth nerve palsy in both her eyes, which sometimes causes her to see “tilted vision” mostly out of her right eye when not looking straightforward. 

“The impact was so great that I tweaked the muscle that is directly behind the eyes,” she said. “… I had to go to a specialist, and he couldn’t believe that I damaged both of those muscles without sustaining skull fractures.”

While the injury does not keep her from her everyday activities such as horseback riding, she said it hindered her returning to field work. 

 “I’m able to drive and everything, but as far as shooting and all of that kind of stuff, I was never able to go back to patrol,” she said. “… When it comes to handling a weapon, it’s not safe.”

 Over the next two weeks, Kynett will train in Bozeman for her position at the Park County Office of Public Assistance located in Livingston. She said she will be assisting community members in attaining state benefits such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance, Temporary Assistance for needy families and Medicaid.

“I’ll still be helping the community and that’s where my heart is,” Kynett said. “It’s just going to be in a different form.”

Wednesday was Kynett’s first day at her new job and she said it “went great.” She added one of the biggest changes for her is working regularly scheduled shifts, which will give her more time to do what she loves — horseback riding and equestrian competitions — as well as spending time with her husband.

“I’ve been on such a changing schedule for so long,” she said. “I’m not used to working a normal person shift, as in an 8-to-5 … but I’ve really come to enjoy it … Those graveyard shifts, I’m certainly not going to miss that.”

However, Kynett’s future in law enforcement may not be finished. Her eyes may heal with time, and if not, surgery is an option, she said. 

She added she has already had a job offer from a local law enforcement agency as a part-time mounted reserve officer with her patrol horse, Tank — but she will need to wait until her vision is restored.

“That makes me happy knowing that I would still be an officer on horseback and utilize Tank,” Kynett said. “… It would be a blessing to still use that skill.”

Livingston Chief of Police Dale Johnson said Thursday morning that losing Kynett leaves big shoes to fill. 

“She was a valuable asset to the department and the community, and she is definitely is going to be missed,” Johnson said. “A lot of people in this town know her, they respect her, they have very good memories of interactions with her and the police department. 

“Unfortunately, it’s going to be a hit to our department and a difficult position to fill.”

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Jasmine Hall may be reached at jhall@livent.net.