Patrolling the D.C. Harbor

Patrolling the D.C. Harbor

This past weekend I was fortunate enough to be able to go on a ride along with an Officer of the D.C. Metro Police Harbor Patrol Unit. This was no regular ride along for me either, as my guide took me out on his boat in the Washington Canal.


Walking up to the station I didn't know what to expect, as I have never met a Harbor Patrol officer before. I got in touch with him through a mutual friend. As a young officer, I knew he would be able to offer a lot of advice and would know some good places to show me. My curiosity was heightened when the first thing he had me do when I got there was sign two separate waivers to be able to go out with him.


Outside Harbor


After walking me around the station and handing me a life vest, we walked out to the dock and he showed me the command and dive boat of the station. The command boat is only used for calls that would keep them on scene for a long time. He told me that it is equipped with beds, a kitchen and even two flat screen televisions. This costs the department on the higher end of $400,000. He would also show me the fan boat that the department uses in the winter and for when they have to go in really shallow waters.


Next, the officer took me to the dock where the normal patrol boats are and we boarded his. Equipped with top of the line SONAR, this boat is worth about $250,000. He talked about how they have to go through an extensive 8-week training course to make sure that they know everything about operating the vessel.


Boats Docked


Out on the water, he took me to a couple hot spots in the D.C. and Virginia area. We started off by going to the docks in Georgetown and the day got underway quickly as he stopped a boat. From doing a routine safety check of the boat, we found out the captain of the boat had not gone through a boater's safety class. The officer only gave the guy a warning though, and told me that any ticket they give on the water is considered a misdemeanor arrest against the person.

For the next hour we would continue to just ride around the water and he continued to tell me about some of the places that we were passing, like the Watergate Hotel, the Reagan Airport and even the dock of T.C. Williams High School (the school from Remember the Titans).




Lincoln Memorial


As we were getting ready to go in, a call came over the radio about an unmanned small boat that was driving around in circles; the officer flashed on his lights and we went over to the location. When he got on scene, there was another officer already there and had gotten the boat to stop. The officer and I went and got the captain of the boat from a tour boat that he had boarded and brought him over. His podium had broken and he was thrown from the boat, and because he wasn't wearing his safety harness, it was still able to drive around on its own.



After waiting for the Coast Guard to arrive, the officer took me back to land and we called it a day. As he walked me out, he showed me the classroom where they teach boater safety classes and gave me a pen with a map of the channel on it. It was an eventful day to say the least, and a ride along that gave me a new perspective on law enforcement.

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