Public Safety

Give State Peace Officer Authority to Select Federal Law Enforcement Agencies

Currently WA St law does not give any state authority to federal law enforcement officers. As the law is currently written a county sheriff has the decision in whether they want to deputize/commission a federal law enforcement officer which basically gives them authority to enforce state and county laws within that county. Without this extra authority a federal officer can only enforce federal laws on federal lands, with the authority the federal officers can enforce state and federal laws on federal lands as well as state laws on all other lands, just like a deputy sheriff.

 

An issue that arises is that if a federal officer does not have the county commission and they encounter a violation of state law they cannot arrest or cite the individual, they can only “hold” the individual until a trooper or deputy arrives. If the federal officer has the county commission then they can cite/arrest the individual just like a deputy or trooper. Several county sheriffs give county commissions to federal officers, usually law enforcement officers from the US Forest Service, US Bureau of Land Management, and US Fish and Wildlife Service seek out this authority since they are really the only federal agencies in WA that have a patrol function and commonly run into state violations while patrolling their lands.

 

The issue is that some counties give these officers authority and some don’t. Many states grant officers from selected federal agencies with state peace officer authority, basically giving them the authority to enforce all state laws. However as I have said, WA does not do that.

 

So how does this concern the budget?

 

Example: A US Forest Service Officer is on patrol and is 20 miles away from I-90 on a gravel logging road. He contacts an individual that is violating state law, this officer is currently in King County (King Co. has a policy against commissioning federal officers) and does not have a county commission. The officer can either wait for a WSP Trooper to arrive, which will waste time for the trooper who could be dealing with other incidents on the freeway, or just simply let the violator go. Had the officer been in neighboring Pierce or Kittitas Counties (which are known for having a great relationship with the feds) the officer could have handled the situation himself and not needed to request assistance from WSP thus draining the amount of Troopers on our roads.

 

I ask that the State of WA grant state authority to law enforcement officers of certain federal agencies. I propose this authority be granted to officers of the US Forest Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Land Management. The officers of these agencies are already granted authority as state fish and wildlife officers. These officers patrol alone and the job is to be considered very dangerous. Granting them with this authority will allow troopers and deputies to continue with their duties and not be called away to assist federal officers, thus saving the state money since our troopers will be doing the job they are paid to do.

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Idea No. 464