OLYMPIA - Under a unique partnership agreement reached Tuesday (March 18), the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will join forces with the Clallam County Sheriff's Office to improve law enforcement in rural areas and on the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Beginning in early April, one WDFW officer will team up with a county sheriff's deputy to address issues of mutual concern, ranging from fishing and hunting violations to complaints about dangerous wildlife and vicious animals.
Although both officers will still report to their respective departments, the two law enforcement agencies will share dispatch services and equipment such as boats and all-terrain vehicles.
WDFW Enforcement Chief Bruce Bjork and Clallam County Sheriff Joe Hawe say the one-year pilot project will help both departments provide more efficient law enforcement coverage within tight budgets.
"Both departments are stretched thin in certain areas of the county during peak times of the year," Bjork said. "During those times, we can work more effectively as partners than on our own."
For WDFW, those peak times come during the mid-summer salmon season and the fall hunting season, Bjork said. For the sheriff's office, key areas of need include help in patrolling the Olympic Discovery Trail and responding to reports of vicious animals in rural parts of the county.
While the new partnership with Clallam County is the first of its kind, Bjork said WDFW enforcement officers work closely with county law enforcement throughout the state to enforce the law in rural areas of Washington.
"Whether the issue is illegal drugs, illegal fishing or homeland defense, the lines between enforcement responsibilities have begun to fade for officers in the field," Bjork said. "Cooperation and teamwork have become increasingly important for law enforcement agencies of all kinds, and this new partnership with Clallam County is the next logical step."