Are Corrections Officers Considered Law Enforcement Officers In Tacoma, Washington?

Are Community Corrections Officers Considered Law Enforcement Officers In Tacoma, Washington?

An interesting thing is happening in the wake of the viral article about The Cheesecake Factory apologizing to officers for kicking them out because they had guns on their persons when they tried to have lunch in Tacoma, Washington, recently, as reported by the Inquisitr. In her viral Facebook post, Miriam Nichols calls herself “local law enforcement,” a term that would lead most laypeople to assume that Nichols is a Tacoma Police Department officer.

However, as noted by Snopes, Nichols is a Washington State Community Corrections Officer, meaning that Miriam potentially works inside a prison — although not all DOC officers work within prisons. The name of the prison has not appeared on Miriam’s Facebook page, but the Facebook page of the News Tribune confirms that Miriam works for the Department of Corrections. Indeed, the publication also states that Miriam has worked for the DOC for three years, a fact that has revealed some sort of rift between what some are calling “real” law enforcement officers versus those community corrections officers who work inside of prisons. On Miriam’s Facebook page, she posted a tribute to Jayme Biendl, a community corrections officer who complained about feeling unsafe before she was killed, according to the Seattle Times.

Nevertheless, comments like the following are appearing beneath stories about the melee at The Cheesecake Factory in Tacoma.

Erik de Vries: “‘I am local law enforcement.’ You are prison guards, off duty and out for lunch. Calling yourselves ‘Law Enforcement’ makes it sound like you are police officers. You aren’t police officers. What you are, is a bunch of glory thieves and exactly the sort of self aggrandizing idiots who don’t need to be bringing weapons into a restaurant.”

Philip Ferreira: “They were not LEO. They were correction officers. It is a branch of LEO, but not real police. The people are not issued service weapons because they work in Prisons and Jails. They are not allowed to be armed in Jails/Prisons because riots break out and armed prisoners are very bad prisoners. They have no arrest powers over regular civilians.”

Therefore, the backlash begs the question: Are prison guards and community corrections officers really considered local law enforcement officers? Are they allowed to carry guns inside The Cheesecake Factory?

According to the Washington state government website page titled, “AUTHORITY OF CORRECTIONS OFFICERS TO CARRY CONCEALED WEAPON WITHOUT OBTAINING A CONCEALED WEAPON PERMIT(1),” which was dated 10 years ago — back in 2006 — community corrections officers are allowed to carry a concealed weapon permit — as long as they meet the “statutory definition of a law enforcement officer.” They also must receive authorization from the Department of Corrections to carry that gun. Department of Corrections officers, according to the law RCW 10.93.020(4), are considered “Washington peace officers” with limited authority — again, only if they meet certain requirements from their statutes. Therefore, the confusing law that deems DOC officers “limited authority Washington peace officers” for some purposes and only “law enforcement officers” for other purposes — which goes on to describe their authority by citing other cases — makes one see why The Cheesecake Factory would be confused as to whether or not the DOC officers were allowed to bring their guns inside the establishment.

The fact that Miriam wrote that she was local law enforcement likely had the general public assuming that she was a Tacoma Police Department officer, as are all the people tweeting the Tacoma PD about The Cheesecake Factory incident right now.

The melee regarding those who are writing all sorts of responses regarding prison guards versus law enforcement officers brings to mind actor Brendan Fraser. Fraser plays a sadistic prison guard on the Showtime drama titled The Affair.

More details about Miriam’s actual workplace were not readily findable. According to KIRO, Miriam said that part of her party was already seated when they were told that guns were not allowed at The Cheesecake Factory.

[Featured Image by Charles Sykes/AP Images]

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