Thurston Co. to stop writing reports of non-injury accidents

TUMWATER, Wash. -- The Thurston County sheriff is ordering his deputies to skip writing collision reports in non-injury accidents, even if that goes against state law.

The sheriff says until they get more deputies, they can't take the time to fill out reports when no one is injured and a crime hasn't been committed.

Collisions with injuries or where a crime, such as DUI, have been committed will get a full investigation by deputies. That won't change as the Washington State Patrol hands over crash investigations on county roads to the Thurston County Sheriff's Office. But where you won't be seeing deputies hanging around writing reports are for the small scale non-injury collisions.

Those with wrecked cars may not like it, and have a state law on their side. Revised code of Washington 46.52.070 requires any officers "present at the scene of any accident or in possession of any facts concerning any accident whether by way of official investigation or otherwise shall make a report."

Does this mean the Thurston County sheriff is asking his deputies to break the law by not writing a report?

"Right now, I don't perceive that we are breaking the law," said Thurston County Sheriff John Snaza. "I perceive that we are interpreting the law and that we're making decisions based on public safety and the needs of Thurston County."

Snaza says the reason for pulling back from minor traffic accidents is to give deputies more time to deal with major crimes such as murders, domestic violence, and robberies -- crimes that demand immediate attention.

"I can't stress that enough is that I'm committed to the citizens to ensure that public safety throughout this county and that's what our job is about," Snaza said.

But when it comes down to those small accidents, residents worry they won't have that accident report to help with deciding who's to blame.

"Without the police report, the customer can't figure out who's going to fix the car," said Kevin Harris with Black Lake Towing & Collision.

The sheriff's deputies will respond to all collisions to make sure everybody's OK and the road is safe, but for minor accidents, until the sheriff gets more deputies, they'll keep their report pads in their pockets.