Forest Service, El Dorado County sheriff's personnel pledge to work together
Anticipating an influx of visitors over the Labor Day weekend, the El Dorado County sheriff and U.S. Forest Service officials seek to assure the public that, despite recent tensions between their agencies, they are working together to ensure public safety and protect natural resources.
In June, Sheriff John D'Agostini announced that he was suspending the authority of Forest Service officers to enforce state laws in the county. A Sheriff's Office spokesman said D'Agostini had received complaints from citizens about the officers.
The suspension took effect July 22, a week before Laurence Crabtree assumed the post of forest supervisor for the Eldorado National Forest.
D'Agostini announced last week that he had met with Crabtree and Capt. Frank Aguilar of Forest Service law enforcement to get acquainted and discuss issues.
Crabtree, in a telephone interview, said he has worked in many places where peace officer authority was not granted to Forest Service officers. That was the case in Plumas County and the Plumas National Forest, where he was deputy forest supervisor before being named to his current post.
Crabtree said he respected the sheriff's right to suspend that authority, and stressed that the agencies can cooperate to protect resources and public safety.
"We are still committed to work together," Crabtree said.
In a news release issued last week, sheriff's officials noted that although D'Agostini took away Forest Service officers' ability to enforce California laws, "those officers still maintain the authority to enforce federal laws, within El Dorado County, through the federal court system."
Crabtree said there was concern among Forest Service personnel that the sheriff's action had given some people in the community the mistaken impression that Forest Service officers had no enforcement authority.
The California Penal Code states that officers of the U.S. Forest Service "have no authority to enforce California statutes without the written consent of the sheriff or chief of police in whose jurisdiction they are assigned."
Under federal law, however, Forest Service officers are authorized to enforce laws regarding fire, timber and other forest products, fish and wildlife, protection of property and disorderly conduct – laws that typically pertain to property crimes and protection of natural resources.
Crabtree said ...