By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News
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The memorandum of understanding between Clallam County and the National Park Service would allow certain officers to be cross-deputized to improve response times and to promote officer safety, county officials said.
No commissioner objected to the agreement when it was discussed in a board workshop Monday.
“Basically, it’s just a simple cross-deputization agreement for us to be able to help them respond to issues in the park when rangers are by themselves, or if there’s no rangers available,” said Ron Cameron, Clallam County chief criminal deputy.
“Also, it assist us, too, where we can cross-commission park rangers. If we’re in route to, say, something up in the Hoko — 20 miles up the Hoko Road — one of their rangers might be able to respond to a situation just outside the park there to contain the scene until we get there.”
The memorandum is similar to existing agreements that the county has with other agencies, Cameron added.
Sheriff Bill Benedict said the agreement reflects the “unique jurisdictions” of Clallam County.
“Olympic National Park is somewhat of an anomaly in that it is exclusive federal jurisdiction,” Benedict said.
“Most of our national parks have concurrent jurisdiction with the state. And as a matter of fact, the National Forest is all concurrent jurisdiction.”
Benedict said it would take an act of Congress to make Olympic National Park concurrent jurisdiction.
“What this does is this allows for mutual assistance,” Benedict said.
“Keep in mind that what the sheriff gives the sheriff can take, and what the park gives the park can take. So this isn’t some long-term binding issue.”
The agreement can be canceled by either party with 60 days notice.
In response to questions from Commissioner Mike Doherty, Benedict said the agreement protects the county from liability.
Benedict added that the Sheriff’s Office has “no interest whatsoever” in making federal arrests inside the park.
Clallam County has already cross-commissioned U.S. Forest Service rangers as well as Lower Elwha Klallam and Jamestown S’Klallam tribal police.
Sheriff’s deputies don’t need to be cross commissioned by the Forest Service because the county already has jurisdiction in Olympic National Forest, Benedict said.
The city of Port Angeles has already cross-commissioned Olympic National Park rangers.
“It’s very common in other counties that abut the National Park as well,” Benedict said.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.