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rikhall 11-05-2010 01:11 PM

Scary situation for both sides
 
This is a redirect from Rikhal's post. I was already going to post this, then saw he had come up with it. I am moving his post to here because I want to make sure that when googles, it will pop up appropriatly. Please excuse my as I merge the first few posts as they may not be in complete succession.

Brian


Hi all

This came to our sailing list from Chuck Baier, General Manager Waterway Cruising Guide

A very scary situation for both the yacht owner and the law enforcement officers.

Rik

-----------------

We all know that the possibility of being boarded for a sanitation inspection is a possibility. And we have all heard reports of some aggressive and less than friendly boardings. Many of these reports have come from areas on the east coast of Florida. As boaters we all understand that dumping raw sewage into our waterways is in no way acceptable. Yesterday, a report circulated around several websites about a particular boarding that was reported by a boater, that happened in Volusia County involving the Sheriff's Department. After we had an opportunity to review the report we sent a request to the Volusia County Sherrif for comment. Here is a copy of the report followed by the response from the Information Officer at the Volusia County Sheriff''s Office. We leave you to decide for yourself. Keep in mind that we have no verification of the actual facts so we are presenting each sides account. Read on as posted on our Discussion Board......

We just received word of this report from a boat boarded in New Smyrna and the report is indeed disturbing. At this time we can not confirm this but we don't have any reason at this time to believe it is not true either. It is important enough that we thought our friends should be aware. Please read the following:

"I am the owner of Gulfstar 50 cruising sailboat . . . . I have been bringing the boat from Newport RI to southern Florida and points south for the last 14 years.Today,wed Nov. 3,2010, I was transiting the AICW from New Smyrna, Florida, southbound. I had come in from offshore last night, shutting my sanitation valves and diverting them to holding tanks as is my practice when onshore. They are remotely located and accessible only to me. My crew has no knowledge of their location.

At 1000 while I was below cooking bacon, my crew who was driving, yelled to me "we are being boarded by police". We gave no provocation for this incident. I prepared to shut off and secure the stove, hot liquid bacon grease,propane,flame etc. Next thing I see is an officer right next to me in the corridor of the galley with a .45 caliber automatic weapon drawn and pointed at my chest. "Get on deck" he ordered.

These officers never asked permission to board. We were cruising at 7 knots. 2 of the 3 officers had jumped on board . The remaining officer fell back in my wake in his boat, while the other officer (the one who had drawn his weapon on me), put dye in my heads and flushed. The boat behind said he saw no dye. So my tanks were retaining the discharge. The other officer on board proceeded to issue me a $250. citation for one "unsecured valve"

In conclusion, I think this type of unprovoked assault on an innocent cruising boat is inappropriate to say the least . It is uncalled for and an overreach of power. We had done absolutely nothing wrong. and we were not discharging anything overboard. my crew did not know where the. valves were. I was the operator of the vessel and was in total control of the sanitation system, yet I was given a citation (under gunpoint) referencing 327.53 which says I must do what I had already done.
Name Withheld by Request"

This is indeed disturbing and we have just sent a request to Sheriff Ben Johnson of the Volusia County Sheriff's office asking for a response. If anyone else would care to email him he can be reached at, BJohnson@vcso.us . We will post his reply. Chuck

And the response from the Sheriff's Department........

Thanks to all who've written to inquire about this incident. Unfortunately, the events as depicted on the web site posting don't convey all of the relevant facts surrounding the incident in question.

First off, the author is in fact correct that no provocation with law enforcement had occurred prior to the boarding. However, it should be clearly understood that no provocation is required, or even permission needed, for law enforcement to board a craft for the purposes of conducting a lawful inspection. The reality is that transient crafts moving through the waterways within our jurisdiction have been known to dump sewage into our waterways on many occasions. Along with ensuring boating safety and compliance with the rules of the water, the prevention of sewage dumping is another responsibility taken very seriously by the Volusia County Sheriff's Office and its Marine Unit. I feel certain that everyone with an interest in preventing the pollution of our waterways appreciates our efforts in this regard.

With that in mind, some key facts were omitted from the description of the encounter on November 3, 2010. Most notably, when our deputies boarded the craft, they ordered the two occupants on the top deck to stay where they were. In direct defiance of the deputies' order, one of the passengers ran to the cabin area, where noises could then be heard that sounded as if compartments or drawers were being opened. Not knowing the intent of the passenger or the reason for his failure to comply with their orders, and fearing that he may have been reaching for a weapon, a deputy did in fact draw his duty weapon for officer safety purposes.

This in no way was inappropriate, an over-reaction or an unprovoked assault, as alleged by the writer. Given the sequence of events, this was an entirely appropriate and necessary act on the part of the deputy until they could secure the occupants and gain control of the scene. To those on this web site who are questioning the actions of our deputies, I ask you to think for just a moment what you would have done in the same circumstance. Given the dangers that law enforcement officers face every day on the job, I also ask you to stop and consider what might have occurred if the passenger was, in fact, reaching for a weapon and the deputy had not drawn his weapon for protection. Our deputies are trained to exercise restraint. But they also are trained to draw their weapons if they perceive the potential for harm. Waiting for the danger to be upon them is tragically too late to react.

Lastly, it should be noted that the inspection of the craft did result in the discovery of a discharge valve that was not properly secured, as required. As unsettling as these events may have been for the occupants of the craft, the events would have transpired much differently had all of the occupants simply complied with the lawful commands of law enforcement.
Gary Davidson
Public Information Officer
Volusia County Sheriff's Office

erps 11-05-2010 01:26 PM

I didn't know they put dye down the toilets. I wonder if the dye had gone in the water if the officer would be guilty of an illegal discharge? It is certainly evidence of an improperly secured waste valve but that alone does not cause sewage to go in the water unless someone pumps it overboard and in this instance, it would have been the officer that pumped it overboard. It's like check to see if a gun is loaded by pulling the trigger.

sailingfool 11-05-2010 01:33 PM

Hard to believe that the state has given local LEO the authority to board a boat without requesting permission. I don't believe the USCG will do that, or I've certainly never seen such. What happened to "a man's home is his castle..." when you live on the boat? This is a very bad over-stepping of authority, I assume by an un-thinking state legislature.

Who's going to take the fall when some over-eager officer (like the people in the story) climbs on an anchored boat in the middle of the night, and comes face-to-face with an owner, fresh from cruising in the bandit prone areas of Central America, who has drawn his legal protection weapon. Can't you see it coming?

Cruisingdad 11-05-2010 01:48 PM

Rikhal -

I just saw this too. I would like to start a thread on this with the name of the county and what happened and link to the direct thread (from another site). But I think this needs to get out there. I am not going to say one side was right/wrong or the other, but I want to make this very visible. And I want to urge all sides to keep a very open mind that all the facts may not have been reported, etc. The direct link to the thread in discussion is found here:

Cruiser's Net Blog Archive Important – Boarding Incident in Volusia County (between New Smyrna Beach and Mosquito Lagoon)

Brian

Cruisingdad 11-05-2010 01:51 PM

Volusia County boaters and Sheriff's Department
 
This is a redirect from Rikhal's post. I was already going to post this, then saw he had come up with it. I am moving his post to here because I want to make sure that when googles, it will pop up appropriatly. Please excuse my as I merge the first few posts as they may not be in complete succession.

Brian

Minnewaska 11-05-2010 01:53 PM

I think the Sheriff's Dept reply is well done. If anything, I'm surprised they didn't simply ignore the inquiry. For the sake of a web blog like this, if you weren't there, you just can't know for certain what happened. Here is the best I can observe from this limited info.

The OP is stating that his crew didn't know where the valves were. This isn't relevant to compliance and causes me to wonder why he is trying to oversell his case.

Assuming FL has similar requirement to anywhere else I've been with these laws, it isn't simply enough to turn the valve. It must be secured, locked, handle removed, etc to comply. I suspect he knew that too, but didn't admit it.

Police officers make mistakes. However, for the very few they make, they are accused of thousands more. As a generality, pulling your weapon is as much a liability as protection and an officer typically won't do it unless absolutely necessary. They are highly trained, scared straight you might say, in the consequences of improperly discharging a weapon. That can only happen while out of the holster. Again, mistakes are made.

So no, I can't know this wasn't one of the few bad mistakes or over reactions. The odds are that the crew did something that the officer legitimately assessed could become a threat. Whether it was or not, is not the standard. He/she has the right to ensure they return home to their family from a job checking for poopy in the river. That would be a pretty lousy mission to die over.

Cruisingdad 11-05-2010 02:11 PM

You pull you gun, in my opinion, you better have a damn good reason for it... and IMHO, a lot more than hearing a door or drawer closing down below. We are talking about a leaking head for Gawd's sakes!!!! So what!!??? Can you imagine your kids seeing that - a gun pointed at their dad or mom? What would that do to a kid's perception of law enforcement??

Sorry - but that is way over the top. And boarding a boat because you think they might have flushed overboard?? Gustapo.

And before anyone here goes off on this being an isolated incident and blown out of proportions, let me tell YOU a story. Everyone knows me here. I am very transparent.

In Aprilish of this last year, we had a approximately 70 year old man and wife show up at our marina to stay for a while. We are talking a very senior coule. Well, the approach to our docks is tricky beacuse you have to go against your nature and stay very close to the shore on the canal. THis is in Fort Myers Beach past the Mound House - FYI. Anyways, I told him I would take him out the next morning and we headed out around 9ish in the morning in his Avon tender (rubber inflateable boat). I showed him and his wife where to go and how to travel so they could get out at low(er) tide.

On our way back, I was driving, we got pulled over by the Sherrifs department. I couldn't believe it and askede them why. It was a safety check, or some such nonsense. They wanted whistles - had it. DL - had it. Registration - had it. This guy had everything (it was his tender). He even had the up to date sticker on his boat. These people even asked us to blow our whistle to make sure it would work (the orange whistles). THey looked perturbed. SO then they found out that the sticker he had on his boat, though it saiys through X-month, expired a few days before because of hsi birthday or something. SO they wrote him a warning (and not a citation). Then they let us go.

The point of all of this is that it has gotten WAYYYYYYY too agressive. Go put your time somwhere into protecting the people and not pulling over a 70 year old man and friend in a 10 foot rubber boat with everything apparently in order on the off chance you might just find something. Sorry - but I see this as soviet union type of stuff. Yeah, you might have the right to pull us over, but is it the right thing to do??

Anyways, Florida has gotten very ugly and strict, from the story above, to my story, to the anchoring laws (anyone want to mention Marco Island debacle??), etc. And to think this state wants to cater to tourists. I will tell you that my 70 yo friend said, "This is the reason kids grow up hating police and not trusting them. That is flat-out harrasment." I agree with him.

Brian

sailingfool 11-05-2010 02:27 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Minnewaska (Post 663364)
I think the Sheriff's Dept reply is well done. If anything, I'm surprised they didn't simply ignore the inquiry.......

Police officers make mistakes. However, for the very few they make, they are accused of thousands more. As a generality, pulling your weapon is as much a liability as protection and an officer typically won't do it unless absolutely necessary. They are highly trained, scared straight you might say, in the consequences of improperly discharging a weapon. That can only happen while out of the holster. Again, mistakes are made.

So no, I can't know this wasn't one of the few bad mistakes or over reactions. The odds are that the crew did something that the officer legitimately assessed could become a threat. Whether it was or not, is not the standard. He/she has the right to ensure they return home to their family from a job checking for poopy in the river. That would be a pretty lousy mission to die over.

ANY situation starting with three armed officers boarding a moving vessel without permission for the purpose of checking a head ...is a big mistake...an an accident waiting to happen. Even if it is legal...(do we really know that)...it is wrong and wrong. Somebody is going to get hurt...and for what?

Frankly, if I were driving my vessel and a police vessel pulled aggressively alongside I believe my natural reaction would be to turn away...and attempt to evade a forced boarding until the who and why is established. I mean what are they going to do...shoot me?

RichH 11-05-2010 02:43 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Minnewaska (Post 663364)
I think the Sheriff's Dept reply is well done. If anything, I'm surprised they didn't simply ignore the inquiry. For the sake of a web blog like this, if you weren't there, you just can't know for certain what happened. Here is the best I can observe from this limited info.

The OP is stating that his crew didn't know where the valves were. This isn't relevant to compliance and causes me to wonder why he is trying to oversell his case.

Assuming FL has similar requirement to anywhere else I've been with these laws, it isn't simply enough to turn the valve. It must be secured, locked, handle removed, etc to comply. I suspect he knew that too, but didn't admit it.

Police officers make mistakes. However, for the very few they make, they are accused of thousands more. As a generality, pulling your weapon is as much a liability as protection and an officer typically won't do it unless absolutely necessary. They are highly trained, scared straight you might say, in the consequences of improperly discharging a weapon. That can only happen while out of the holster. Again, mistakes are made.

So no, I can't know this wasn't one of the few bad mistakes or over reactions. The odds are that the crew did something that the officer legitimately assessed could become a threat. Whether it was or not, is not the standard. He/she has the right to ensure they return home to their family from a job checking for poopy in the river. That would be a pretty lousy mission to die over.

Sorry Minnewaska -
I and my wife also have had almost the exact same experience in Volusia County Florida and will gladly appear to testify that this particular group of deputy sheriffs in Volusia County Florida do indeed use drastic intimidation and do brandish weapons ..... for MSDS inspections !!!!!!


As a very long term paramedic I can also state that my personal observations are that police/LEOs in general are now trending to an almost uniform disrespect of the general citizenry and treat most citizens as the 'enemy'. Ive also noted increasingly that most LEOs are now behaving simply as 'hired-guns' or mercenaries whose true purpose is primarily and seemingly to enhance the municipal 'revenue' ... & not much more.
I am rapidly losing MOST of any respect Ive ever had for LEOs; as, they have they in general have started to become 'the enemy' and the general citizenry are vastly becoming their 'prey species'. ... and Im a 'very conservative' person.
It was not the nobility of France that first went to the guillotine at the start of the French Revolution, it was the gendarmes!

Vasco 11-05-2010 02:56 PM

They're boarding boats underway along this stretch of the ICW (New Symrna Beach to Mosquito Lagoon) quite often now. I got boarded a couple of years ago. Catching a lot of southbound boats that come in at Ponce Inlet with the Y valve not locked.


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