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On the Same Wave — Marine Police Train for Coordinated Response on LI Sound

The Greenwich Police Department received a $50,000 federal grant to conduct coordinated training for area police departments' marine units.

Greenwich Police Chief Jim Heavey discusses the marine police training exercises, May 21, 2014. Video: Barbara Heins.
Greenwich Police Chief Jim Heavey discusses the marine police training exercises, May 21, 2014. Video: Barbara Heins.

If you've wondered why there's a mini flotilla of police boats parsing the waters making waves off a calm Greenwich coastline this week, it's all an exercise.

Officers from four agencies are completing the first of two five-day tactical operators training exercises for the marine police units that are designed to enhance a uniform, coordinated police response for emergencies on the water, for interdiction and for the protection of high-profile dignitaries, according to Greenwich Police officials.

Greenwich Police received a $50,000 FEMA and Homeland Security grant to train officers in U.S. Coast Guard standards and operations used in mass events such as natural disasters or "high-targets" such as dignitaries who routinely attend private events at homes on the shoreline, according to Lt. John Brown, commander of the Greenwich Marine Police Unit. When dignitaries such as the President visits, security perimeters are set up along the shoreline, Brown said.
 
"The officers have early morning classroom training and then in the afternoon the officers go out and work, practice interdictions and providing safety, security escorts for dignitaries and other police-related missions on the water," explained Greenwich Police Chief Jim Heavey. 

"The Greenwich Police Department is very fortunate to apply for the grant and receive and share it with a number of other local agencies and state agencies," Heavey said.

This week, two marine officers each from Stamford and Bridgeport Police, an officer from the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, and seven Greenwich officers are receiving the training from Scott Pearce of the Florida Fish & Wildlife Department, and Shawn Steadman of St. Louis, MO, who are instructors with the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) that maintains national boating safety and training standards. 

In June, the second week of training will involve the Greenwich officers as well as marine police officers from Stamford, Norwalk and Fairfield, Brown said.

Heavey said the training is necessary because "this is a low occurrence but high risk event. It is very helpful for us to have a uniform policy and procedures so that when the officers have to back one another up on the water, we know our policy is the same, our practices are the same. It makes it a lot safer for the officers."

On Wednesday morning, the flotilla of three Greenwich police boats and two Zodiaks from Bridgeport and the state DEEP, headed out of Greenwich Harbor to practice maneuvers involving the interception of a suspicious vessel whose operator refused to stop and allow officers aboard.

Heavey, himself a recreational boater, added, "This is a perishable skill. They have to constantly train. It's not like riding a bicycle. Some of these boats are jet-drive. They all require a lot of knowledge on the water but also good boating skills."

According to Heavey, the training also is beneficial because Greenwich marine unit now has staff available "24/7. We maintain a corps of reserve of officers — officers who are promoted or transferred out of the unit (and who) maintain their skills. They are included in the class as well."

For a photo gallery from the exercise, check out 
Photo Gallery: Marine Police Make Waves Training on the Water

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