August 12, 2022
Broward law enforcement learning boat safety (from Art Serig) to work on the water
 
 
By Chris Perkins
 
 

Although Tuesday was a beautiful day for boating — sunny skies, little wind, calm water — it was an unsettling day of boating for Darren Brodsky, assistant chief for the Wilton Manors Police Department.

“If you’d have seen me [Tuesday] when we first got on the boat, I was pretty stiff, I was a little tight,” he said.

But Wednesday was better.

“Now, I feel pretty good,” he said.

And Thursday should have been even better than Wednesday.

Brodsky was one of about 30 law enforcement officers being trained by Tactical Advantage Consultants, a collection of former or active law enforcement officers, in boating skills, boating safety and law enforcement boating tactics. The training, now in its 11th year, was done on the Intracoastal Waterway near Alsdorf Park in Pompano Beach.

TAC provides basic, intermediate, and advanced training for skills as simple as pulling a boat up to a dock or as advanced as boarding a boat and making an arrest, vehicle pursuits, night operations, and anti-terrorism tactics and techniques. There are also leadership, management, and supervisor training programs.

The officers, who aren’t required to be experienced boaters when they initially volunteer for the marine unit, come mostly from Broward County but there’s also international representation. The training sessions included officers and deputies from 11 municipalities — the Broward Sheriff’s Office, Hollywood police, Lighthouse Point police, Fort Lauderdale police, Boca Raton police, Boynton Beach police, Delray Beach police, Highland Beach police, Miccosukee police, Wilton Manors police and the Cayman Islands Port Authority.

Brodsky, a 27-year veteran of the Plantation Police Department, had no previous boating experience.

“Zero,” he said.

He wanted to be part of the program because he noticed how boats seemed to break down barriers between officers and civilians.

“When you’re on a boat, it opens it up to social conversation,” he said.

So he’s getting training, as is Sgt. Fred Stabile of the Hollywood Police Department. Stabile oversees the marine unit.

“We’re constantly on boats,” he said, “and I need to have more knowledge of what they do and how they do it.”

Stabile, like Brodsky, doesn’t have a wealth of boating experience.

“Most of us have been cops a long time,” Stabile said. “We’ve got that under control.”

Being a marine law enforcement officer requires a different skill set.

TAC trains officers on their patrol boats, but TAC also does airboat training. And it does international training. Some TAC members will travel to Montenegro in a few weeks.

The result of the TAC training is more law enforcement officers patrolling South Florida’s waterways during weekends, holidays or special events such as the annual air and boat shows.

Financing for marine law enforcement on weekends, evenings and holidays comes through the Enhanced Marine Law Enforcement Grant, which uses approximately $850,000 from boaters’ annual vessel registration fees.

“This grant has definitely saved lives,” said TAC president Bob Knight.

John Fiore, chairman of the Broward County Marine Advisory Committee, helped create the program in 1995 when there was an effort to close boating docks because the boats were hitting manatees.

The grant program has been putting officers on the water since 1997, financing thousands of hours of patrol time.

Fiore said one advantage of their training is it introduces law enforcement officers from different municipalities to each other.

“Before we set up this program, nobody knew anybody from the next city,” he said.

Marine officers usually work alone in their boats and if they need assistance, they must call another municipality. The TAC training makes that process a bit smoother because now they can call and work with someone they know.

The TAC training also gives officers confidence to maneuver through tight spaces such as at Boca Bash, where hundreds of boats are crammed into small spots.

Fiore said marine officers would rather teach boaters how to behave safely and responsibly than write tickets. TAC training helps officers achieve that goal.

“In Hollywood, we get a lot of people coming down on vacation,” Stabile said. “They probably have the best intentions most of the time, but they don’t know the rules.

“[TAC] wants to make sure we can go out there and educate those boaters.”

 

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Wilton Manors Assistant Police Chief Darren Brodsky, left, Hollywood Police officers Alfred Stabile, Alex Ramirez, Will LaPierre, Captain Art Serig, and Bob Knight with Tactical Advantage Consultants. The police officers were taking part in learning marine officer law enforcement techniques such as how to pull beside a boat, how to board a boat, and how to make an arrest on a boat.