Harbour Police Officer

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Harbour Police Officer


Not many of individuals are aware that along with police forces in cities, there are special officers patrolling the nation's many harbors. The US is bordered by two oceans, and is blessed with a large number of active lakes and rivers. Many of these bodies of water are key points of arrival and departure for tourists, industry, and recreation; therefore, the harbors are always full of action and traffic.

On any given day, the harbor police might be required to investigate unauthorized ships in port, including immigrant ships and fishing vessels; monitor recreation events like boat shows and races; search for missing fishery workers; assist residents in the event of a flood; perform search and rescue missions; and patrol the shore and waters surrounding ports looking for emergencies and illegal activity. Harbor police are also involved in community outreach programs, educating the public about water and boating safety.

Harbor police services can be provided by different police forces. These police officers are trained as regular officers, but also have additional training to work in this different branch of law enforcement.

Along with community-based activities, and active police duty, there is also a lot of behind-the-scenes work. Quite a lot of time is spent in the office, completing paperwork. Harbor police officers need to document each action they take in a criminal investigation, or any routine outreach they are involved in. This is important because other officers may deal with the same situation later, and want to know what action was taken previously. In a criminal investigation, detectives, lawyers, and judges will need to know details for court proceedings, and an officer may be required to testify months or even years later--therefore, accurate notes are crucial.
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  Interests and Skills  
Interested in working as a harbor police officer? Individuals must be keen observers who notice details, good communicators who are able to speak with and listen to children, panicked victims, and suspects and calm, and able to ask questions without frightening or alienating the person they are interviewing. A good understanding of the law and a desire to see justice done properly are important qualities. They should be interested in problem-solving, conflict resolution, and negotiation and have an interest in working with the community to stop criminal cycles. Honesty, maturity, integrity, and a non-sexist, culturally open attitude are tremendous assets to a successful police officer. Computer skills are also required.

Anyone who wants to branch out into harbor policing should have an interest in boats, and be comfortable traveling by boat. They must be strong swimmers, and be able to use a compass and charts for marine travel.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Monitor water in harbor for suspicious boats and accidents
  • Supervise lifeguards on beach
  • Plan and deliver community presentations
  • Initiate community safety programs
  • Respond to emergencies on city ponds, lakes, and rivers
  • Participate in various search and rescue operations
  • Write reports, documenting tasks and daily events
  • Investigate and arrest suspects
  • Give evidence in trials
  • Routine maintenance of vessels
  • A typical day for a harbor police officer might involve watching the water, making sure all boaters are behaving responsibly, looking into accidents and unauthorized boats, meeting with community groups, and making recommendations to senior staff and municipal officials. A harbor police officer will spend much of the day outside. The job requires a close working relationship with all members of the force and crew and Coast Guard. A typical day will see the officer interacting with maintenance crew members, senior officers, children and adults.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Harbor police officers are only employed in cities where there is water, and an active harbor. They may be trained as state officers, or the unit may be made up of regular police. Depending on the size and use of the harbor, there may be only a few officers working within a standard police unit, or they may work in a harbor or marine unit. They work in boats, offices, and on foot, walking the beaches and harbor front area, and may work in the city whenever there is an incident involving creeks and ponds. The harbor police force is usually active all day and night, each day of the year. They work along side other harbor officers, as well as paramedics and firefighters.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Anyone trained as a police officer has quite a few options. After working in the harbor system for a while, officeers may find themselves in supervisory positions. However, there is also the option of joining a municipal force, specializing in detective work, moving on to highway police work and railway police work. There is also the option of leaving the police force altogether and moving on to law school, to work on the other side of the spectrum as a defense lawyer, or with the government as an attorney. Former police officers can also become security guards, private investigators, paramedics, and firefighters.

  Educational Paths  
While a university degree or college diploma is not necessary when applying to become a harbor police officer, they are encouraged.

Individuals choosing to join a harbor police force, will be required to build upon their initial police training with special harbor training. In the harbor police units, often all staff, from unit commanders to crewhands take part in the sessions. This is due to the fact that working on water can be dangerous, and can call for everyone to take part in life saving duties. The harbor police training can consist of marine law, boating techniques, charting and electronic navigation, firefighting, and various underwater rescue methods. There are police training schools and programs offered at colleges across the US--check with your local police department before you enroll; they might know of a reputable program in your area.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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