The Arizona Game and Fish Department and law enforcement from around the country prepare for this boating season by participating in a two-week joint training to increase public safety on the nation’s waterways.
The training was designed to prepare every law enforcement agency that patrols the state’s rivers and lakes. The course involved 25 officers from eight Arizona state and county agencies, including AZGFD, Maricopa, Coconino, La Paz and Yuma counties, Colorado River Indian Tribes, Bullhead City and Lake Havasu City police. Officers from North Dakota also participated in the training.
“These types of exercises are invaluable,” said AZGFD Watercraft Coordinator David Rigo, who spearheaded the multiagency event. “Anytime we can bring together so many partner agencies it places a national spotlight on Arizona and helps to protect the public, our country’s law enforcement and saves lives.”
The training was conducted with upwards of 66 law enforcement and civilians that serve as “violator/suspects” for officers to practice routine watercraft stops, searches, investigations and arrests. Scenarios involved anything from a wake zone violation, operating under the influence, assaults or fishing without a license.
“Just as on land, our officers handle any number of emergencies and criminal investigations, and our officers have to be prepared to handle each one of those types of incidents. It takes specific skills and training to ensure the safety of our officers and the boating public,” Rigo said.
The training is just one way the Arizona Game and Fish Department works to enhance public safety on the water. The department offers free boating safety courses in Phoenix, Lake Havasu City and Tucson.
In addition, the department is expanding its Life Jacket Loaner Station program to include more lakes throughout the state. Currently stations where the public can borrow a life jacket have been placed at Lake Pleasant, Lake Havasu, Lake Mohave and others are planned this spring and summer.