REWARDS ‑- STATE PATROL RETIREMENT FUND.
Officers of the state patrol cannot lawfully claim a reward for apprehending wanted persons, since it is their duty, along with other peace officers, to apprehend them.
A reward cannot be designated or required by an officer of the state patrol, to be paid or given as a contribution into the state patrol retirement fund for apprehending a wanted person for whose capture such a reward was offered.
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March 27, 1956
Captain Roy F. Carlson
Washington State Patrol
Olympia, Washington Cite as: AGO 55-57 No. 235
We acknowledge receipt of your request for an opinion on the following question:
"Can rewards which are paid for the apprehension of wanted persons by members of this department be received and placed in the Washington State Patrol Retirement Fund?"
We answer your inquiry in the negative.
It is a well-settled principle, based on public policy, that an officer cannot lawfully claim a reward for the performance of a service which it was his duty to discharge. 46 Am.Jur. 114, Rewards, § 17.
[[Orig. Op. Page 2]]
Officers of the Washington State Patrol have the police powers and duties which are vested in sheriffs and peace officers generally. RCW 43.43.030. Consequently, officers of the state patrol cannot lawfully claim a reward for apprehending wanted persons, since it is their duty, along with other peace officers, to apprehend them.
The question, then, is whether such rewards can be paid into the state patrol retirement fund under the provisions of RCW 43.43.165, which permits "contributions" from any public or private source to be deposited therein.
Doubtless the contributions from a public source are meant to include those referred to, and required to be made, under RCW 43.43.220, by the state as its share toward the establishment of the retirement fund from which benefits are to be paid. Contributions from the members to the fund are provided for by RCW 43.43.300.
RCW 43.43.165, having been enacted by the 1955 legislature several years after the sections providing for the state and member contributions, was evidently intended to permit other contributions into the fund. In so far as our inquiry is concerned, does this mean that rewards, as such, which cannot be lawfully claimed by a member, may nevertheless be claimed for the retirement fund?
Clearly, one not entitled to claim a reward himself cannot require the reward to be paid into a fund to be designated by him. Consequently, such a payment could be contributed to the fund only on a strictly voluntary basis. It could not be lawfully claimed for the fund on behalf of the person who, because of public policy, is ineligible to claim it for himself.
Oxford dictionary defines contribution as being "somethinggiven to a common stock or fund; a sum or thing (voluntarily) contributed." (Emphasis supplied.)
The same principle must govern such contributions, whether in lieu of rewards or because of benevolence. It must be freely and voluntarily given from a sense of appreciation and generosity rather than from any obligation or duty.
[[Orig. Op. Page 3]]
Consequently, we must conclude that a reward, as such, cannot be designated or required, by an officer of the state patrol, to be paid or given as a contribution into the state patrol retirement fund for apprehending a wanted person for whose capture such reward was offered.
Very truly yours,
Assistant Attorney General