Photojournalism By Gini McKain
Broward County Sheriff's Office has more than 6,300 employees, approximately 2,800 certified deputies. Broward County, Florida also has the unique distinction of over 1300 square miles of land in the southeastern portion of the Florida peninsula, sandwiched between Miami-Dade County and Palm Beach County. Both counties contributed nearly equal portions of land to create it in 1915. Of that dedicated land, about two-thirds or 847 square miles (2,194 km2) in the most western portion, lie in an undeveloped fragile eco-system called the Florida Everglades Conservation Area, which the Broward County Sheriff's Office has under its jurisdiction. Airboats are the most logical, if the only way of patrol, for the grandfathered-in camps and for security if a boating, or aircraft accident should occur.
Since 1991, the Sheriff's Office has provided law enforcement services for Port Everglades, from the far east, to the Atlantic Ocean and Intracoastal Waterway. This 2,380 acre deep water harbor is the 12th largest cargo container port in the nation, and has over 12 cruise ship terminals (largest cruise ship port in the nation), with another terminal under construction to compliment the berth of the largest cruise ship in the world, still being built. It also has a major storage and distribution site for petroleum and propane with over 250 large fuel tanks on land. The jurisdiction encompasses 2,190 upland (dry dockside) acres, and 448 acres of submerged land. This submerged land is continually patrolled by a new portable marine command vessel for the safety of the thousands of cruise ship tourists, valuable cargo freighters, and highly important fuel laden ships and barges.
There are at least 14 incorporated cities and towns in the eastern portion of the region, along with all of Broward's unincorporated areas (1/3rd of the county) under the Sheriff's Office full-time law enforcement services. With the Office's headquarters in Fort Lauderdale, known to many as the 'Venice of America' with its miles of canals and multi-million dollar homes, BSO's Marine Unit is a very important part of the Broward County Sheriff's Office.
Marine Patrol and the Dive Rescue Team in Cities and Populated Areas
Fully water integrated, the Broward County Marine Unit consists of the Marine Patrol and the Dive Rescue Team. The unit consists of one sergeant, six county marine deputies, one Manatee Protection Patrol deputy, (funded by the Environmental Services), and a marine mechanic. All Marine Patrol deputies are certified public safety divers, and part of the county’s 35 man Dive Team pooled throughout the agency.
The Unit's primary responsibility is the safety of the residents of Broward County within its waterways, while promoting boating safety through boating education and high-visibility patrol. The unit does a lot with less to about 50,000 registered boaters in the county and many thousands more who bring their own boat to fish in tournaments, just fish the beautiful waters, or to enjoy any other kind of recreational boating and cruising.
According to Sergeant Carlos Carrillo of the Unit, "they enforce marine laws and ordinances, investigate boating accidents and related crime scenes, and participate in marine enforcement operations targeting human and narcotic smuggling."
Having recently experience a full fledge hurricane in Fort Lauderdale not long ago, the Marine Patrol Unit is also responsible for the county's hurricane flotilla plan, guiding thousands of vessels to safe harbor when severe weather conditions threaten the county. They have a full complement of vessels to accomplish this, including a 41-foot RIB, christened the Deputy Philip G. Billings.