Unlike the MSWP and Coast Guard, many marine patrols exist as only a single part of their agency. Many departments dedicate smaller divisions to their water jurisdiction. Recognizing the necessity for a one-stop organization to assist, the OSMB filled that need in Oregon. "In the law enforcement program, over the years we have evolved to where we are doing everything we can to assist local marine programs," says OSMB Law Enforcement Program Administrator William Rydblom. OSMB funds local agencies' equipment and training. "Everything related to law enforcement and education," he states. "We have a hand on their back and on their shoulder helping them out."
Along with funding, OSMB offers a two-week marine law enforcement training. "In that period, we take deputies and troopers and give them the same boating information they would receive if they were to go to a Coast Guard Power Squadron course," explains Rydblom. "They learn how to enforce laws. They do boarding scenarios and accident reconstruction. We spend a day pool side practicing officer safety. It gives them a general flavor of what they are going to be dealing with."
Due to many marine units being seasonal, OSMB offers a pre-season training conference designed to "catch their attention, give a refresher, talk about patrol strategies and [talk about] scheduling … things they need to do to have a successful season," says Rydblom. OSMB also holds a post-season conference, debrief and awards banquet.
Oregon's amount of marine areas, including large rivers like the Columbia, coastline and in-land waterways create diversity for local law enforcement. "They have a lot of variety," says Rydblom, "so they need a variety of boats and enough officers to patrol from coast to bay." Local agencies use a dozen makes and manufacturers. "The main-stay is something around a 20-foot inboard, aluminum jet-sled," he says. "We have boats as big as 32 feet. Most boats are aluminum-hulled but 10 percent are fiberglass." With current economic difficulties, fuel efficiency plays a larger part. "We don't want to cut back on patrol and we find that when the fuel gets up too high there is more vehicle patrol done. Deputies take a vehicle and stop and walk the docks to save fuel. We are looking at more fuel efficient motors for propulsion-cleaner, quieter and more efficient."
OSMB also issues permits for marine events like fishing derbies and boat races, though a county sheriff needs to sign off on the event. During the Portland Rose Festival, as many as 10 different agencies patrol, many of which were trained and funded by the OSMB.
Service and safety
Whether an agency is solely a marine patrol, like the MSWP and Coast Guard, or an organization dedicated to serving law enforcement marine units, there are unique aspects to working on the water. In daily operations, officers need appropriate training and equipment. Funding is an issue and a priority. Under normal circumstances, marine units keep waterways safe and educate the public about RBS. During natural disasters, marine patrol officers prove invaluable to preserving life.
"Our emblem says service, protection and safety," says Callahan. "We are here to serve the citizens of our state. When we're needed, we're ready to go. We'll always respond when called upon."
Michelle Perin worked as a police telecommunications operator with the Phoenix Police Department for eight years. To contact Perin, visit www.thewritinghand.net.