Detective Lieutenant Barry M. Baker (ret.) is a 32 year veteran of the Baltimore Police Department
A police marine unit assignment is just like assignment to any other police specialized unit. You won’t be able to begin your career there. You’ll have to complete a required amount of time in patrol, before you can apply for transfer to your police marine unit. Don’t forget to make those all-important personal connections with members of the unit.
If you think that an assignment to a police marine unit would be a relatively easy and carefree assignment, you’re wrong. It’s still police work with a few more demanding and dangerous aspects added. I think police boats are really cool, but I wouldn’t want to be assigned to one. When I get into a bad situation, I prefer to have solid ground beneath me, but that’s just me.
There’s over 25,000 miles of navigable inland waterways in the United States. That number doesn’t include the thousands of miles of Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf coastlines that affect police activities of coastal police jurisdictions. Prior to 9-11, a police marine unit would be tasked with obvious activities. They would enforce boating rules, and they would conduct emergency water rescues.
9-11 changed the picture for police marine units, and probably for the better. Aside from drug smugglers, the majority of criminals with whom police interact rarely use waterways as their preferred mode of transportation. In the past, a police department, responsible for a significant body of water, maintained a police marine unit more for an emergency response capability rather than a significant contribution to its patrol activities.
The threat of terrorism has exposed a large, and relatively un-patrolled, area of travel and access. Along with drug smuggling, guns, explosives and human trafficking are in the mix.
The United States Coast Guard is, and will continue to be, the premier defender of America’s coastlines and waterways. However, the need for more police involvement in patrolling waterways should be obvious. Consider the growth in population, the thousands of miles of shoreline, the vast increase in commercial and recreational water traffic, and the threat of terrorism. The importance of the police marine unit cannot be understated.
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