2003 California Boating Safety Report

Section 3

Boating Law Enforcement Programs

Law Enforcement Marine PatrolIn support of the California Division of Boating and Waterways’ mission to provide leadership in promoting the public’s right to safe and enjoyable boating on California waterways, the Enforcement Unit’s primary objectives are:

•  To provide for adequate boating law enforcement through local agencies

•  To ensure that the enforcement of California boating laws is uniform throughout the State.

The Enforcement Unit meets these objectives through programs that provide officer training and financial aid to local boating law enforcement agencies.

A.  Financial Aid Program (Subvention Program)

The purpose of the Boating Safety and Enforcement Financial Aid Program is to provide State financial aid to local governmental agencies whose waterways have high usage by transient boaters and an insufficient tax base to fully support a boating safety and enforcement program.  The program is intended to augment existing local resources for boating safety and enforcement activities on California waterways.  These funds also support enforcement of state laws, regulations and local ordinances affecting boating activities, vessel inspection, supervision of water events, search and rescue operations, and recovery of drowned bodies.

During 2002/2003, the Department allocated $8.1 million in funding to 37 counties and two cities for boating law enforcement operations including maintenance, equipment, and personnel costs.

Exhibit III-1 presents a summary of services supported during this period by the financial aid program.

Exhibit III-1
Services Supported by the 2002/2003 Financial Aid Program

Regulation Enforcement

Verbal Warnings






Physical Arrests



Boater Assistance

Persons Assisted



Vessels Assisted



Accident Investigations



Search and Rescue Operations




Body Recovery Attempts




Boating Safety Presentations




Organized Boating Event Supervision



Boating law enforcement officers provide important safety education to the boating public.  The Department’s partnerships with the law enforcement community provide the Department with an excellent resource to help educate and communicate with the recreational boater.

In FY 2002/03, law enforcement officers provided boating safety education to nearly 105,000 vessel operators, primarily by means of public contact and verbal warnings, which act as teaching tools to educate boaters and help prevent accidents.

B.  Marine Law Enforcement Training Program

In California, boating law enforcement is performed at the local level.  This unique and efficient method of serving the recreational boater can present challenges at times.

To ensure that boating law is being properly interpreted and enforced, the Department offers an extensive marine law enforcement-training program.  This program services over 100 public agencies tasked with providing public safety on the water.  As a result, boaters can expect uniform law enforcement on waterways throughout the State.

In 2003, the Department conducted 23 Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) certified classes (832 hours) throughout the State and trained approximately 400 marine patrol officers.  Officers learned how to apply a multitude of skills emphasizing their roles of maintaining safety on public waterways.  The courses are designed for law enforcement personnel and are taught by law enforcement specialists who bring great expertise and credibility to the training program.

Recent improvement to the Accident Investigation/Reconstruction (new Vessel Accident Report Manual) and Boating Intoxication Enforcement (new Boating Under the Influence video) continue to keep California on the cutting edge of marine law enforcement training.

The Department offers training classes in the following areas:

Basic Boating Safety and Enforcement — Newly assigned Marine Patrol Officers are introduced to California Boating law and its interpretation as it pertains to vessel registration, operation and equipment requirements.

Boating Accident Investigation / Reconstruction — Officers develop the ability to understand and practice technical accident reconstruction procedures and how to manage accident scenes.

Boating Intoxication Enforcement — This course updates officers on current laws regarding intoxicated vessel operation, with emphasis on current arrest procedures, chemical testing, report preparation, and courtroom procedures.

Boating – Basic Skills Training — This course is for marine patrol officers entering the water rescue and enforcement field.

Coastal Piloting and Navigation — Necessary background in the fundamentals of Piloting and Navigation are learned in this course.

Marine Firefighting — This course gives officers first hand knowledge of marine firefighting practices.

Personal Watercraft — Marine Patrol Officers utilizing PWC in patrol operations learn basic slow speed maneuvers, handling characteristics, rescue board usage, and related enforcement issues.

Seamanship – Rescue Boat Operations — Marine patrol officers learn how to handle emergency rescue boats under varying conditions.