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AGO 1954 No. 246 - April 22, 1954
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington


The Chief of the Washington State Patrol does not have authority to appoint special state patrol officers, with or without limited or restricted duties, to serve without compensation, benefit of retirement and tenure of office.

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                                                                   April 22, 1954

Honorable James A. Pryde
Chief, State Highway Patrol
Legislative Building
Olympia, Washington                                                                                               Cite as:  AGO 53-55 No. 246

Dear Sir:

            By letter dated April 16, 1954, you requested our opinion on several related questions.  The first question posed is:

            "Does the chief of the Washington State Patrol have authority to commission special state patrol officers, with or without limited or restricted duties, to serve without compensation, benefit of retirement and tenure of office?"

            Our answer to this question is "no."  In view of this conclusion your other questions need not be answered.


            Chapter 43.43 RCW nowhere expressly authorizes the appointment ofspecial state patrol officers.  The power of the chief to appoint is expressed in RCW 43.43.020, which provides:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            "* * *

            "The chief shall appoint a sufficient number of competent persons to act as Washington state patrol officers, may remove them for cause, as provided in this chapter, and shall make promotional appointments, determine their compensation, and define their rank and duties, as hereinafter provided."

            Once appointed, a patrol officer may only be removed for cause.  Tenure of office is until death, resignation, suspension, demotion or discharge, as provided by statute, RCW 43.43.050.  A minimum salary is prescribed, RCW 43.43.380.  Likewise, the powers and duties of state patrol officers were defined by the legislature in RCW 43.43.030:

            "The chief and other officers of the Washington state patrol shall have and exercise, throughout the state, such police powers and duties as are vested in sheriffs and peace officers generally, and such other powers and duties as are prescribed by law."

            The chief cannot appoint an officer with powers inconsistent with the statute.  Nor can he appoint an officer to the patrol and deprive him of the benefits of the office.  Clearly, the legislature did not vest the chief with authority to make special appointments of the type contemplated.  Contra for a county sheriff, RCW 36.28.020.  But onlypolice powers of sheriffs and peace officers are vested in the chief under RCW 43.43.030.  The power to appoint to public office is executive or administrative, and not an exercise of police power.  Special state patrol officers are not, therefore, authorized.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General

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