A bill sponsored by state Rep. Dan Griffey, R-Allyn, that would allow Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) officers to work private law enforcement side jobs passed the state House over the weekend.
Under the bill, known as House Bill 1369, WDFW officers can work in the same private law enforcement jobs as Washington State Patrol (WSP) troopers can. WDFW would be required to encourage its officers to work off-duty law enforcement jobs and create policy guidelines. The state government would not be liable for an off-duty officer’s conduct.
“As Washington deals with a shortage of law enforcement officers, it is important that those state-trained officers are protecting the public,” Griffey said. “WSP and WDFW are the only law enforcement agencies in the state with general authority and statewide jurisdiction.”
WDFW Lieutenant Erik Olson testified on behalf of the agency before the House Community Safety, Justice and Reentry Committee earlier in the legislative session.
“Without a certain number of uniformed officers, the NFL will not allow a game to be played. The primary mission of the off-duty officer is to work the games to preserve life, deter terrorism and to enforce Washington state law,” Olson said. “To put it succinctly, off-duty law enforcement employment helps ensure the safety of the public.”
Some members of the committee expressed concern regarding officers burning out. Olson argued officers are required to prioritize their public service.
“When applying for off-duty employment, every officer signs a document that clarifies their first priority is to the department. This helps ensure the needs of the department are met first, and foremost,” Olson said.
Some tribal members raised concerns about the training received by WDFW officers compared to traditional officers. Griffey responded by arguing WDFW officers were fully commissioned members of law enforcement who go through training like other officers, including bias training.
“They go through the same basic law enforcement training as fully commissioned officers in Washington state. … I understand why some might raise such concerns but I am confident they are unfounded,” Griffey said. “We are talking about WDFW officers doing private law enforcement work at places like Seahawks games, large concerts and construction sites to help ensure security or direct traffic. … This is about helping protect the public by filling the gaps in these after-hours security jobs that we do not have enough traditional officers to fill.”
HB 1369 now goes to the state Senate for consideration.