There are over 160 city police departments in the state of Washington. In addition, there are seven colleges and universities with their own police departments, as well as a department for the Spokane International Airport. There are also 22 tribal police agencies to serve the large Native American population in the state. Many smaller towns in the state do not have their own police departments, but instead contract with the county sheriff’s department or a neighboring city’s agency to provide law enforcement services. The number of full-time police officers shows a downward trend from 2011 to 2015. In 2011, there were 153 officers per 100,000 residents, while in 2015, that number had decreased to 147 full-time officers. Washington has the lowest ratio of officers to residents of any state in the country.
Although most municipal police officers have jurisdiction only within the city limits, Washington has a law called the Police Officers Powers Act which expands an officer’s responsibilities. Under this law, officers in cooperating jurisdictions may be given consent to enforce criminal and traffic laws anywhere within the state under certain circumstances. These include emergency response, mutual aid, while executing an arrest or search warrant, when in active pursuit of a suspect, or when transporting a prisoner.
The largest police department in the state is in Seattle, which employs over 1,300 commissioned officers and more than 550 civilians. The police divide the city’s 143 square miles into five precincts, which are patrolled by car, foot, and bike. The department has several specialty units, including canine, gang, SWAT, and harbor, which patrols 59 square miles of waterways. Most offenders arrested by Seattle police are held in the King County Correctional Facility, which is run by the Department of Adult & Juvenile Detention in the county.