Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1951 No. 30 -
Attorney General Smith Troy


A State Patrol officer, assigned as sergeant in charge of vehicle safety inspection, should be paid as a technical sergeant.

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                                                                    May 1, 1951

Mr. James A. Pryde, Chief
Washington State Patrol
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                  Cite as:  AGO 51-53 No. 30

Dear Sir:

            You have requested our opinionupon the validity of a claim of a State Patrol sergeant, whose duties are primarily vehicle safety inspection, that he is entitled to the pay of a line rather than a staff sergeant.

            Our conclusion is that:

            Such duties are technical in nature and the claimant may receive only the pay of the technical rank to which he was temporarily appointed.  The claim should be rejected.


            Under chapter 192, Laws of 1949, the grades of Washington State Patrol officers are:

            (1) Patrolman,

            (2) Sergeant, (For salary purposes, there are two grades of sergeants, based upon the nature of their duties),

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            (3) Lieutenants, and

            (4) Captains.

            The salary provisions, RCW 43.43.380 (1950 Supp.); Rem. Rev. Stat. § 6362-61e (1949 Supp.), apparently assumes that most officers appointed to staff or technical duties will serve in the grade of sergeant.  Line promotion is based upon competitive examination and appointment upon the occurrence of a vacancy; RCW 43.43.330 and 43.43.340 (1950 Supp.); Rem. Rev. Stat. §§ 6362a and 6362b (1949 Supp.).

            Any officer, however, may be assigned to "staff or technical" duties and may be appointed to the rank necessary to carry out such duties.  This appointment is only temporary, and

            "If a staff or technical officer returns to line operations, he shall return in the rank that he holds in the line command, unless promoted to a higher rank through examinations and appointment as herein provided."  RCW 43.43.370 (1950 Supp.); Rem. Rev. Stat. § 6362-61d (1949 Supp.).

            "Staff or technical" duties are those of an administrative, office, or technical nature.  "Line" duties pertain to work in the field such as actual highway patrol.  (For the military and naval definition of "line," see Websters New Inter. [[Internat.]]Dict. Unabr. (2d ed. 1949) 1436).

            Thus, if vehicle safety inspection is deemed to be "line" in nature, the officers serving therein may hold only their rank as gained by both examination and appointment.

            If such duties are considered "staff or technical," the officer may serve (and receive salary) of the rank to which he was temporarily appointed.

            Safety inspection of vehicles requires knowledge and training of a certain technical nature and involves no line command.  The actual inspectors, under the supervision of the sergeant in charge, are civilians with certain  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] specialized technical training.  It would appear, therefore, that such duties are "technical" and not "line" and we so conclude.  This conclusion is strengthened by past administrative practice which has always so considered such duties.

            We, therefore, conclude the claim must be rejected.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General