Wednesday, November 19, 2008

In the navy...

Yes, it's true. Little known historical fact, but our department actually had a "Marine Unit" once. We had it for all of a week and I was one if it's two members. And like all innovate and fun things on our department, we went too far with it and they took it away from us.

But it all began several years ago when some government program dropped a Boston Whaler complete with Mercruiser outboard and a trailer on us.

For a few months, it just sat unused in the parking lot, taking up needed space and not being used for a damn thing. Out station at that time was commanded by an old supervisor who had in fact "retired on duty" some years prior. The last thing that he wanted was for any of us to do anything to make him work, and unfortunately that also included a lot of proactive policing that either resulted in a big case or annoyed someone enough to generate complaints.

As a relatively new officer at that time, I was quickly rising to the top of his list because I hadn't yet learned when to lay low or back off and not poke my cruiser's nose into affairs that were too big for me to handle without a sudden rush of back-up from everywhere, to include other departments when we were short.

There was another officer on the squad who had earned the boss's ire by going back into the woods and generating large cases against poachers and other resource violators, and while this was technically within our jurisdiction, it often resulted in our (the supervisor's) needing to liaison with other agencies like Fish and Wildlife and it often exposed the boss's less-than-stellar knowledge of the laws surrounding resource cases. So John wasn't too popular with the boss either.

One day, in response to John's pestering regarding the boat, the boss had an idea. Maybe if he put his two most productive officers out in a little boat in the middle of the water, we couldn't possibly find much to get into and his phone wouldn't be ringing all the time. Plus he could take credit for a new patrol area and maybe get an increase in the budget that would of course be plowed into other things. But we didn't care, John and I. We just knew that we had us a boat and we were going out to do some policing in it. John had an actual license to captain a small commercial boat and I was also a paramedic who'd seen almost every episode of McHale's Navy, so between the two of us, we figured that we were all set.

Packing the bare essentials--lifejackets, binoculars, a megaphone, a shotgun and our lunches--we hitched the boat up and trailered it down to the nearest boat launch and put it in the water.

The first day out, we just patrolled up and down the river, getting the feel for our area and getting used to the boat. It was actually a small boat to have out on that sort of water, and it rode rough and we got wet. But it was also fast and had a blue light and a siren, so we were happy.

The next day, we began checking licenses of people who were fishing from shore spots and we wrote several citations because the people were used to not being checked and few actually had fishing licenses. We also did our good deed by towing a disabled boat back to the marina. And we pulled the boat out with enough time to spare to allow us to stop at a really good Chinese restaurant on the way back to the station. This boat cop stuff was all right!

But then we started doing police work.

Day three had us wondering about the number of violations on the other boats that we were seeing. So we decided to try some traffic stops when we saw people drinking or not wearing life jackets. Of course neither of us knew how to do a boat traffic stop, but hey--what's life without a few learning experiences? We picked a pleasure boat out that appeared overloaded and went after it. When we got behind it, John hit the blue light and yelped the siren. The people on the boat turned and looked at us, but didn't do anything else. So I picked up the megaphone and ordered: "This is the POLICE! Cut your engines, stand to, and prepare to be boarded!"

John looked at me. "What the hell does 'stand to' mean?"
"I dunno," I replied, shrugging. "But they say it in the movies."

Sure enough, they stopped and we determined that they had too many passengers for the size of their boat and they lacked enough flotation devices for all of them. So we transferred the excess passengers to our boat and I went aboard the pleasure boat and we took them back to the marina where we issued the appropriate citations. On the way back, the operator of the violator boat asked me when we started river patrolling.
"Just this week," I told him.
"Can you guys board my boat like this?"
"Well we did, didn't we? Do you think we'd do it if we couldn't?" I made a mental note to check the regs and make sure that we actually could do such things.

As it turned out, there wasn't anything in our manuals on us doing what we were doing--or on boat operations in general--so we just decided that we'd play it like we were in a car and things would probably be ok. And with that plan in effect, we went on our merry way, stopping boats, boarding boats, writing citations, and generally behaving like pirates for a couple of days.

Then on day five, we tried to stop a boat that didn't want to stop. we saw three guys in a bass boat drinking what looked like beer. When they saw us checking them out through binoculars, they threw the bottles overboard and hit their throttle. That was enough for us and we went after them.

With the blue light on and the siren yelping, we took up the chase. They weren't stopping, but we were a lot faster and rapidly closed on them. I got on the speaker and ordered them to stop, and they didn't. Worse, one of them flipped us the bird.

OK, now we had to get them.

We chased them for about ten minutes and finally drew abreast. I could clearly see all three bozos in the boat, but I couldn't see their hands so I grabbed the shotgun, racked a round, and pointed it at them while yelling for them to show their hands. That worked, and all three put their hands up, including the driver.

"Turn the boat off!" I ordered. That worked too, and in a minute we were alongside. I ordered the first passenger to come over to our boat and I gave John the shotgun and he covered me while I cuffed him. The I went aboard their boat and cuffed the other two. It turned out that all three were stone drunk and they were running because they didn't want to get busted for that. They didn't think that we'd chase them. So John got on the radio and made what is still regarded department-wide as a classic radio transmission.

"Marine One."

"Marine One, go ahead."

"You can hold us out off XXX Point with one boat stopped, three in custody."

"Marine One, say again?"

Others back at the station say that our boss popped upright in his chair and clutched at his chest at this point.

"Marine One, we have three in custody for Flee to Elude Boat and Suspicion of DUI Boat"

OK, it sounded good. But back on the streets, the whole force was rolling with laughter as we announced that we'd be heading into the nearest marina and requested cage car transport and a Field Sobriety Officer.

As it turned out, the boat operator had a BAC of 0.21 so he got hooked. We cut the other two jokers loose, and we set about impounding the operator's boat after the operator told us where his trailer was. He didn't want to, but changed his mind after we told him that we'd yank his boat up onto a flatbed wrecker if he didn't.

So the rest of the night was spent with me processing the drunk and John going through the process of trailering our boat and dropping it, then going down with another officer to find this guy's trailer, unhitching it from his truck and attaching it to ours, then going to the marina where we'd parked the bass boat and relieving the officer who had been sitting on it since we left two hours prior. Then John took that boat to our impound lot and got back to the station well after shift change.

But that arrest marked the end of our naval careers. On Monday, we came in to find that the patrol boat had been given to the Parks Department. Aside from the arrest fall-out, the father of the guy that we'd cited for the overloaded pleasure boat apparently knew some people and a complaint had rolled in. So the Marine Patrol was abolished after one week and the boat disposed of and not replaced.

Of course it was a long time before we stopped finding life preservers and nautical stuff in our lockers and mailboxes, and being greeted by mysterious voices yelling "Gilligan!" or "Hey Skipper!" whenever John or I went in service over the radio. (This was obviously before the radios got their unique identifiers that told Dispatch who the jokers were.)

DISPOSITION: The DUI case was pled out in an agreement where the guy got a No-jail DUI (as opposed to a more serious DWI) and the Fleeing charge was dropped. Turned out that the DA didn't want to try a DWI boat case and the fleeing statute that we charged didn't include boat operation but was specific to automobiles, trucks and motorcycles.

Still, we had fun, and nobody got hurt. It was all good.

1 comment:

RoaVaPD said...

That's hilarious! Classic police shenanigans!