Navigation Top
AGO Logo Graphic
AGO Header Image
File a Complaint
Contact the AGO
AGLO 1980 No. 27 - September 11, 1980
AGO Opinion Header Image
Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington

OFFICES AND OFFICERS ‑- STATE ‑- WASHINGTON STATE PATROL ‑- ORGANIZED CRIME INTELLIGENCE UNIT ‑- TRANSMITTAL OF INVESTIGATIVE REPORTS

(1) For the purposes of RCW 43.43.852, "an organized, disciplined association" refers, generally, to any group of two or more individuals which sets about to engage in a course of criminal conduct and whose members are dedicated and internally disciplined to a pattern of illegal behavior and maintain a loyalty, express or tacit, to the other members of the organization and its criminal ends.

(2) Under RCW 43.43.864, information concerning each particular investigation by the OCIU need not automatically be transmitted to the Organized Crime Advisory Board; rather, the statute contemplates that the board will be informed by the chief only as to those matters which the board deems itself in need of for the purposes of carrying out its statutory responsibilities under RCW 43.43.862.

(3) The Organized Crime Intelligence Unit may transmit information concerning specific, individual investigations to the Governor in his or her capacity as chief executive of the state and in furtherance of his or her responsibility for insuring that the laws are faithfully executed.

(4) The Governor, the Chief of the State Patrol and the members of the Organized Crime Advisory Board are all subject to the provisions of RCW 43.43.856(1) which make it a crime to divulge investigative information to one who is not permitted to receive such information under the statute.

                                                                 - - - - - - - - - - - - -

                                                              September 11, 1980

Honorable Phil Talmadge
State Senator, 34th District
4006 ‑ 53rd S.W.
Seattle, Washington 98116                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGLO 1980 No. 27

Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged, you requested our opinion on several questions relating to the Washington State Patrol and its Organized Crime Intelligence Unit under RCW 43.43.850,et seq.  We will state those questions  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] to which we are here responding, together with our answers, within the body of our analysis below.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Question (1):

            The first question here to be considered asks:

            "For purposes of RCW 43.43.852, what is 'an organized, disciplined association'?"

            RCW 43.43.852 contains the following definition of "organized crime":

            "For the purposes of RCW 43.43.850 through 43.43.864 'organized crime' means those activities which are conducted and carried on by members of an organized, disciplined association, engaged in supplying illegal goods and services and/or engaged in criminal activities in contravention of the laws of this state or of the United States."

            RCW 43.43.850 through 43.43.864, which are referenced therein, codify the provisions of chapter 202, Laws of 1973, 1st Ex. Sess. by which the State Patrol's Organized Crime Intelligence Unit was established.  We will have occasion to make further note of these provisions in responding to your remaining questions.  Here, however, the single issue posed is that of what constitutes "an organized, disciplined association" within the meaning of RCW 43.43.852,supra.

            No further definition of that internally used term is provided in the statute.  Giving the words used their common ordinary meaning, however, we would suggest a definition somewhat along the following lines:  Any group of two or more individuals which sets about to engage in a course of criminal conduct whose members are dedicated and internally disciplined to a pattern of illegal behavior and maintain a loyalty, express or tacit, to the other members of the organization and to its criminal ends.

            One obvious example, of course, would be the association commonly known as the Mafia or Cosa Nostra.  Likewise, any of a number of identified "outlaw" gangs (such as motorcycle gangs)  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] whose members are disciplined to a code of illegal behavior and loyalty would most likely be held by a court to fall within the purview of the subject statutory terminology.

            Question (2):

            Next you have asked:

            "Under the authority of RCW 43.43.864, must information concerning each particular investigation by the O.C.I.U. be transmitted in the Organized Crime Advisory Board?"

            RCW 43.43.862 sets forth the powers and duties of the Organized Crime Advisory Board as follows:

            "The board shall:

            "(1) Advise the governor on the objectives, conduct, management, and coordination of the various activities encompassing the overall state‑wide organized crime intelligence effort;

            "(2) Conduct a continuing review and assessment of organized crime and related activities in which the organized crime intelligence unit of the Washington state patrol is engaged;

            "(3) Receive, consider and take appropriate action with respect to matters related to the board by the organized crime intelligence unit of the Washington state patrol in which the support of the board will further the effectiveness of the state‑wide organized crime intelligence effort; and

            "(4) Report to the governor concerning the board's findings and appraisals, and make appropriate recommendations for actions to achieve increased effectiveness of the state's organized crime intelligence effort in meeting state and national organized crime intelligence needs."

             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            RCW 43.43.864, the section cited in your question, then reads as follows:

            "In order to facilitate performance of the board's functions, the chief of the Washington state patrol shall make available to the board all information with respect to organized crime and related matters which the board may require for the purpose of carrying out its responsibilities to the governor in accordance with the provisions of RCW 43.43.850 through 43.43.864.  Such information made available to the board shall be given all necessary security protection in accordance with the terms and provisions of applicable laws and regulations and shall not be revealed or divulged publicly or privately by members of the board."

            In our opinion, the language of this latter section means that your question, as above stated, is answerable in the negative.  The statute clearly contemplates that the board will be informed by the chief as to those matters which the board deems itself in need of for the purposes of carrying out its statutory responsibilities under RCW 43.43.862.1/   To the extent that information concerning any particular investigation by the OCIU is not thus required by the board for the purpose of carrying out those responsibilities, that information need not be transmitted by the chief to the board.

            Question (3):

            This question then asks:

            "If the answer to (2) is yes, must the Board convey information concerning individual investigations to the Governor?"

             [[Orig. Op. Page 5]]

            In view of our response to question (2), we find it unnecessary to answer question (3) in any detail. Nevertheless, we deem it appropriate to provide the following comment as to the Organized Crime Advisory Board's authority (or obligation) to convey information concerning investigations to the governor.

            RCW 43.43.862,supra, requires the board to advise the governor on the ". . . objectives, conduct, management, and coordination of the various activities encompassing the overall state‑wide organized crime intelligence effort."  The board is also to report its findings to the governor and to suggest measures to increase the effectiveness of efforts combatting organized crime.  This statutory language, in our opinion, does not mean that the board must reporteach revealed specific bit of information to the governor.  Instead, the board is to use its analytical talents and experience to summarize and suggest.  We therefore do not believe that the statute requires the board, as a routine matter, to convey all specific investigative information to the governor.  The board's responsibility, rather, is to inform itself as to the overall effort at combatting organized crime through the activities of the OCIU and to make whatever reports it deems appropriate to the governor concerning its finding and appraisals and its recommendations for actions to increase the effectiveness of the effort to combat organized crime.2/

            Question (4):

            This next question inquires as follows:

            "Can the O.C.I.U. transmit information concerning specific, individual investigations to the Governor?"

            The governor is the chief executive of the state and has the general duty of supervising the conduct of all executive offices, including that of the chief of the Washington  [[Orig. Op. Page 6]] State Patrol, and ensuring that the laws are faithfully executed.  RCW 43.06.010.  In addition, the governor has a number of responsibilities with respect to the status of crime and criminal justice in this state.  See, for example, RCW 43.06.300 to RCW 43.06.340.  Therefore, in our opinion the OCIU may transmit specific investigative information to the governor.  This view is also consistent with our earlier opinion interpreting RCW 43.43.856,infra, liberally.  See, AGO 1974 No. 1, copy enclosed.  We thus answer question (4) in the affirmative.

            Question (5):

            The final question here to be considered asks:

            "Under what circumstances would the Governor, the chief of the State Patrol, or the members of the Organized Crime Advisory Board be subject to the provisions of RCW 43.43.856(1)?"

            RCW 43.43.856 reads as follows:

            "(1) On and after April 26, 1973 it shall be unlawful for any person to divulge specific investigative information pertaining to activities related to organized crime which he has obtained by reason of public employment with the state of Washington or its political subdivisions unless such person is authorized or required to do so by operation of state or federal law.  Any person violating this subsection shall be guilty of a felony.

            "(2) Except as provided in RCW 43.43.854, or pursuant to the rules of the supreme court of Washington, all of the information and data collected and processed by the organized crime intelligence unit shall be confidential and not subject to examination or publication pursuant to chapter 42.17 RCW (Initiative Measure No. 276).

            "(3) The chief of the Washington state patrol shall prescribe such standards and procedures relating to the security of the records and files of the organized crime intelligence unit, as he deems to be in the public interest with the advice of the governor and the board."

             [[Orig. Op. Page 7]]

            In our opinion the governor, the chief of the State Patrol and the members of the Organized Crime Advisory Board are in all circumstances subject to the provisions of that section.  Thus, if any such person, or any other person who acquires such investigative information in the course of their public employment, divulges that information to one who is not permitted to receive such information under the statute, that person will have committed a felony under the plain language of the law.3/

             We trust that the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

SLADE GORTON
Attorney General

MALACHY R. MURPHY
Deputy Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/In our opinion, however, the board is authorized by RCW 43.43.862, supra, to in effect conduct performance audits of the Patrol's Organized Crime Intelligence Unit.  In order to carry out that responsibility, the board can, if it desires, have access to any or all of the records and reports of that unit which contain information concerning particular investigations by the unit.

2/Indeed, for the board to report to the governor each specific piece of information received from the OCIU would probably, in many cases, be redundant‑-as such information might very well previously have been reported to the governor by the Patrol itself.

3/In this regard, we again call your attention to AGO 1974 No. 1, copy enclosed.

Content Bottom Graphic
AGO Logo