skip navigation

Public Safety

Below are selected examples of questions MRSC has received related to local government public safety issues. Click on any question to see its answer.


Have a question? Ask MRSC!

Officials and employees from eligible government agencies can use our free one-on-one inquiry service, Ask MRSC. With one call or click you can get a personalized answer from one of our trusted attorneys, policy consultants, or finance experts!

Ask MRSC  or call us at 1-800-933-6772.



I know there is an RCW requirement that a public works contract needs to utilize a small works roster. Is there a similar requirement for consultants? Is there a similar requirement for architectural & engineering services (besides the requirements stated)?
Reviewed: 01/20

If the city wants to use a small works roster (for public works projects under $350k), it can elect to do so pursuant to RCW 39.04.155. This is an optional process. If the city elects not to use the small works roster, then a formal competitive bid process must be followed if the project exceeds applicable bid limits. Effective July 28, 2019, ESSB 5418 increased the day labor/bid limits for code cities, second class cities, and towns to $75,500 (single craft) and $116,155 (multiple craft).

If the project is below applicable bid limits, a city may use the small works roster or a minimal competition process. For more on this, see our Find your Contracting Requirements Tool.

For cities, there is no statutory requirement for bidding for services (which would include consultants). This process is expected to be outlined in policy by the agency. The agency can, therefore, define whether it requires a roster to be used, or any other process deemed appropriate. Some agencies establish different procedures depending on the amount anticipated to be spent.

There is no requirement for an agency to use a roster for A&E contracting. A roster can be incorporated into the A&E process of Ch. 39.80 RCW, and such procedures should be set forth in the agency’s policies.

(Link to this question)

Can the sheriff's department use the "rule of five" when appointing new officers?
Reviewed: 12/19

No. Unlike cities and towns, the rules for counties lack language that allows local rules that “substantially accomplish the purpose” of the state law. See RCW 41.12.010, applicable to city police, which states:

The provisions of this chapter shall have no application to cities and towns which at the present time have provided for civil service in the police department or which shall subsequently provide for civil service in the police department by local charter or other regulations which said local charter or regulations substantially accomplish the purpose of this chapter, nor to cities having a police force of not more than two persons including the chief of police.

There is no similar language in the county statute, thus eliminating the possibility of a local rule that differs from the state law.

(Link to this question)

Are we required to place an RFP or RFQ for misdemeanor prosecution services?
Reviewed: 07/19

Contracts for legal services are “personal service contracts.” There are no RCWs that require local government agencies to follow a formal RFP/RFQ process for personal service contracts.

That said, many jurisdictions have adopted their own policies and procedures which should be followed. MRSC recommends a formal process be followed above a certain dollar amount. Here is a link to our topic page on Personal Service Contracts that you may find helpful.

So while there is no RCW requirement, we recommend that you follow your organization’s adopted contracting/purchasing policies. We also suggest that you consider an RFP/RFQ process even if you are not required to do so under your policies and procedures to the extent doing so will get you the best possible contract.

(Link to this question)

Request for sample code provisions regarding declarations of emergencies in council-manager cities.
Reviewed: 05/19

Please see the following sample code provisions from four council-manager cities:

  • Bainbridge Island Municipal Code, Ch. 2.44, Emergency Management
  • Burien Municipal Code, Ch. 2.75, Emergency Management
  • Normandy Park Municipal Code, Ch. 2.36, Emergency Management
  • Toppenish Municipal Code, Ch. 2.95, Emergency Powers of Mayor, City Council and City Manager

A custom code search of “’city manager’ emergency declare” turns up many more sample code provisions that include procedures for declaring emergencies in council-manager cities for your review. While many of these code provisions have the city manager, acting as the “executive head” of the city, initiating the declaration of an emergency, there are a variety of other approaches that include potential action by the mayor or the city council (if they are in session or to ratify action by the city manager). I am not aware of any attempts to determine what might be considered “best practices” for declaring an emergency in council-manager cities.

You may also be interested in the following related resources:

(Link to this question)

Are there any state mandated requirements for the position of police chief in a city?
Reviewed: 01/16

Yes, state law provides a list of eligibility requirements that apply to the position of police chief in all cities with a population of more than 1,000 in RCW 35.21.333:

(1) A person seeking appointment to the office of chief of police or marshal, of a city or town, including a code city, with a population in excess of one thousand, is ineligible unless that person:
(a) Is a citizen of the United States of America;
(b) Has obtained a high school diploma or high school equivalency certificate as provided in RCW 8B.50.536;
(c) Has not been convicted under the laws of this state, another state, or the United States of a felony;
(d) Has not been convicted of a gross misdemeanor or any crime involving moral turpitude within five years of the date of application;
(e) Has received at least a general discharge under honorable conditions from any branch of the armed services for any military service if the person was in the military service;
(f) Has completed at least two years of regular, uninterrupted, full-time commissioned law enforcement employment involving enforcement responsibilities with a government law enforcement agency; and
(g) The person has been certified as a regular and commissioned enforcement officer through compliance with this state's basic training requirement or equivalency.

Also, RCW 35.21.334 provides that no city may appoint a person to be chief of police until the agency had conducted a thorough background investigation of the candidate.

(Link to this question)

 more