Here’s a look at what agencies around the country are doing with regards to training their marine patrol officers.
The California Department of Boating and Waterways (DBW) Marine Law Enforcement Training Program provides training statewide to law enforcement officers, harbor patrol officers, lifeguards, and other first responders who work in a maritime patrol environment.
DBW training courses are designed to accommodate students who have various levels of boating skills and competencies. These specially designed courses are geared to the patrol officer who is new to the assignment or is a skilled boat operator. DBW courses address this specialized training need by offering a variety of courses to include the Basic Maritime Officer’s Course, Boating Accident Investigation, Rescue Boat Operations, Rescue Watercraft, Boating Under the Influence, and Marine Firefighter Operations. The DBW with its partner agencies continue to develop new courses and revise current curriculum and courses as the need dictates.
The DBW statewide training also focuses on current boating laws and relevant case law that have a direct nexus to all of California’s waterways. Instructors for these courses are actual county and state prosecutors along with experienced law enforcement officers. These instructors are considered subject matter experts and can call upon years of legal experience. With more than 100 local government agencies providing boating law enforcement in California, the training program provides comprehensive, current, and effective training courses with reliable consistency.
The DBW is a working partner with the Maritime Law Enforcement Training Center (MLETC), which is located in the Port of Los Angeles. The DBW, with the MLETC, has a large, dedicated cadre of instructors from a variety of agencies throughout California, who deliver the DBW courses. When not serving as instructors, these men and women are involved operationally on a daily basis in ports, lakes, rivers and waterways, performing maritime law enforcement and public safety duties.
The DBW is committed to the continued development and delivery of high-quality maritime courses.
In 2016, DBW will be offering 25 training classes in eight separate disciplines.
Colorado Parks & Wildlife is working toward developing modular video training for refreshing preexisting training.
“Since boating is very seasonal here (almost NONE November through March) and is very different location to location, retention of some information is difficult,” said Kris Wahlers, the state’s boating law administrator. “We intend to make a variety of trainings that staff can review when they’re able. For example, a 15-minute video about navigation rules, a 45- to 60-minute video about the basics of a boat accident investigation, a 30- to 45-minute video for a legal review, and so on.”
Wahlers stressed that these videos are not meant to substitute initial training, but rather be used as a way to keep the information fresh.
The Maine Marine Patrol has initiated a new focus on training over the past two years to freshen up the approach.
All officers are now trained in Officer Water Survival, using NASBLA’s intense two-day course.
“The Bureau [of Marine Patrol] has invested a great deal of time, funding and manpower into what we consider to be very valuable on-the-water training. Last fall one of our officers saved a life based on some of the confidence instilled by this course. We are currently working to create our own NASBLA-certified trainers with a goal of being able to provide this course in house as well as to other interested agencies,” said Col. Jon Cornish, Maine’s coastal BLA.
In addition, last year the Marine Patrol combined their firearms training with a tactical first aid piece. Officers were trained with new, advanced tactical first aid kits and tourniquets. The training involved treating a wounded officer during a firefight, correctly applying a tourniquet and providing emergency first aid in the field. The reviews of the training were very positive.
In addition, Maine Marine Patrol became, as of last fall, the state’s only NASBLA-accredited agency.
“As we move forward with the program, the goal is to better prepare officers to be boat operators as well as to provide them with the confidence to operate in the dangerous waters off the coast of Maine,” said Col. Cornish. “We hope to strengthen our bureau by not only providing enhanced boat training, but by also creating in-house instructors so that the marine patrol can continue to train new officers and provide consistent across the board training.”
The agency is also incorporating self-defense training into its regime and will be enhancing its boating under the influence training to include recognition of drug impairment.
Col. Cornish added, “We are also working with officers to become more familiar with crisis management so that when they are confronted with a crisis event they have coping tools at hand.”
The Marine Patrol is in the early stages of bringing simunitions training back to the forefront as part of its firearms training.
“In the past this level of realistic training has proven to be beneficial to officers and we plan to make this part of our annual training regimen,” explained Col. Cornish. “We are also providing additional long guns to field personnel as well as training in recognition of the changing world that we live in.”
Lastly, the Maine Marine Patrol is providing enhanced training to more officers in the area of whale disentanglement. The agency is well on its way to forming a professionally trained team of officers with both superb vessel handling skills and specific whale disentanglement proficiency.
2015 was a very busy training year for the Massachusetts Environmental Police (MEP) Boat Operations and Training (BOAT) Team. In keeping with NASBLA’s standard of maritime interagency cooperation, MEP instructors, assisted by MEP-certified instructors from the Hingham Police Department, the Massachusetts State Police Marine Unit, the Boston Police Department Harbor Unit and the Quincy Police Department Marine Unit, instructed four Boat Crewman Classes, four Boating Under the Influence Detection and Enforcement classes, three Pursuit and Stop classes, two Tactical Operators Classes and one Enhanced Vessel Operator Class. Through these courses, MEP provided maritime training to Environmental Police Officers, Massachusetts State Troopers, police officers from Boston, Quincy, Ipswich and Falmouth, firefighters, and Massachusetts Harbormasters.
In addition to the training we provide with and for our partner agencies, we have used our NASBLA accreditation as part of our field-training process for new officers transitioning into our unique line of law enforcement,” said Capt. Merri Walker, BLA for Massachusetts.
MEP training Lieutenant Michal P Grady provided the following overview of the agency’s field training process:
The MEP FTO training process combines approximately three and a half months of classroom and in-the-field training covering a wide range of subjects. Part of this training also introduces new officers to the NASBLA BOAT Program. MEP officers are provided Officer Water Safety Course, Crewman Course, Boat Operation and Search and Rescue, Boating Under the Influence, Boat Accident Investigation, Tactical Operations and Control, and Pursuit and Stop. In addition, slots for the MLETP at FLETC have been sought. This immersion training is best suited for officers who have little or no vessel handling experienced and are assigned into areas of high demand for vessel operation and or marine fisheries enforcement.
Upon completion of the various courses, officers are subject to another two and a half months of training working directly with their assigned field training officer or regional lieutenant. During this time, officers are assigned to a geographic work area and respond to violations, patrol assigned areas on foot, in a vehicle, on an OHV or snowmobile and by boat. Upon completion of all assigned tasks/training in accordance with the FTO task list, officers receive a final evaluation by the FTO and are then recommended for permanent employment, training continuance or termination.
“This truly is the dream we all had for the BOAT Program. MEP is working their accreditation status so well, and they are doing it with their partners. MEP has taken the field, or should I say the lead!” said NASBLA Deputy Executive John Fetterman.
“Our core training is not just a result of original content, but mostly concepts and techniques learned by our officers as they are sent all over the country to NASBLA and other trainings, then brought back for use with the officers here at home. We have been fortunate that our boating law administrators have been supportive of our training efforts and I only see that improving under our new BLA, Barry Lucero,” said Chris Bolen, New Mexico’s education and enforcement program coordinator.
New Mexico Parks has an 80-hour basic training called Marine Enforcement Officer Basic and Marine Enforcement Officer Advanced. The 40-hour MEO Basic, open to both law enforcement and non-law enforcement staff, focuses on close-quarters and open-water boat control, basic water survival, and vessel maintenance. MEO Advanced is open only to law enforcement personnel and focuses on boating enforcement, custody, pursuit, and firearms. The MEO Basic and Advanced courses are also accredited by the New Mexico Department of Public Safety and open to other law enforcement agencies in the state.
“Our Marine Enforcement Officers are also sent to NASBLA Level I and some to the Level II Accident Investigation courses as well as the NASBLA BUI Detection and Enforcement Course. All lake-based staff are also ‘compelled’ to take the NASBLA Officer Water Survival Course taught by two in-house instructors,” added Bolen.
“All of our Basic Boating Education Instructors are expected to complete a National Safe Boating Council Boating Education Instructor Course, an NMDPS Instructor Development Course, and then be mentored by a more senior instructor. Our northern park rangers receive Ice Rescue Specialist Training. NM State Parks maintains five to six retired patrol boats that we use for most of our hands-on training. This is the core of our Marine Enforcement Officer’s training,” he added.
The agency’s newest endeavor is implementation of the Officer Water Survival Course statewide.
“We have adapted it to the types of life jackets we wear and the boats we use. This is a major shift from when I first started and we never got in the water,” said Bolen.
Bolen sees the biggest challenge to their core training is keeping it realistic and relevant.
“We are carrying more gear on our person and in our vessels now that was not around or required 15 years ago. Having officers train in what they use daily and learning to trust their issued equipment is one of our main goals while at the same time teaching that officer how to adapt to different equipment or situations,” he said.