The Special Operations Division is directed by a Division Major.
The Marine Division of the Harrison County Sheriff’s Office is a full service division dedicated to providing a safe boating environment to persons using the open waters and waterways of Harrison County. The Marine Division is staffed with Deputies, specially trained in marine law enforcement and underwater dive operations. This division provides services relative to law enforcement, safety, search, rescue and recovery. The Marine Division supplements patrols conducted by the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs, U.S. Park Service, the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources and the Mississippi Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The primary goal of the Marine Division is to provide and maintain a well-trained and qualified unit that provides the services required in maintaining public safety upon approximately 500 square miles of navigable waterways located within the authority and responsibility of the Sheriff’s Office. Deputies patrolling the open waters and rivers of Harrison County are prepared to render assistance or enforcement wherever it is needed, serving its mission to make them as safe as possible for everyone to enjoy. The waterways of Harrison County can be extremely busy at times with approximately 50,000-registered commercial and recreational watercraft.
Duties & Responsibilities
The Law Enforcement duties of the Marine Division encompass enforcement of Federal and State Laws pertaining to marine vessels, which navigate the waterways of Harrison County.
The Marine Operations Division works hand in hand with U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs Service, U.S. Park Service and State Marine Patrol in combating the trafficking of illegal drugs. This combined effort helps to reduce, disrupt and deter the flow of drugs entering the United States via waterways of Harrison County.
Emergency and Non-Emergency Assistance
The Marine Division responds to calls for assistance along with other Federal and State agencies. This combined effort helps to reduce the response time for mariners in need of assistance. Except in the event of an emergency, the Marine Division is prohibited from towing other vessels. In the event of an emergency, the vessel will only be towed to the nearest shore, pier or dock. For non-emergencies, division members will attempt to assist the stranded boater and attempt to contact a friend of the boater or a boating tow service.
Search and Recovery
A very important part of the Marine Division is its Dive Team. Specially trained Search & Recovery Divers assist in searching for victims of drowning, water related automobile accidents as well as locating submerged evidence for criminal prosecution. Dive team members train once per month in preparation for underwater investigations, accidents, and disasters. Each training day presents a different scenario to prepare the divers for any situation. Dive team members are all volunteers and are selected from all areas within the Sheriff’s Office.
During hurricane and flood seasons, the Marine Division plays an important role in evacuation of residents and patrolling areas of Harrison County which are prone to flooding.
Vessel Safety Inspections
The Marine Division conducts routine safety inspections of vessels and watercraft – on all waterways – including watercraft offered for rent by vendors who operate on the beaches of Harrison County. Deputies check to ensure that sufficient numbers of floatation devices are on board and that the floatation devices are in proper condition. Deputies also check for working fire extinguishers, current flares, and current boating registration.
Required Safe Boating Equipment
- U.S. Coast Guard approved Life Jackets for All Crew and Passengers
- Sound Producing Device (Horn or Whistle)
- Day/Night Flares or Equivalent
- Throwable Personal Floatation Device (Boats 16 Ft or Longer)
- Marine Ordinance 10.003 Sticker (Waste & Trash Disposal Sticker)
- Pollution Placard
Fire Extinguisher (*Less than 26 Ft. Type B-1) (26 Ft. to 40 Ft. Type B-1 OR B-2)
- Running Lights (All vessels including PWC’s must have running lights when operating at night)
- Flame Arrestor (A must for all inboard gas engines)
- Current Registration carried onboard
MI numbers and registration tags properly displayed
- Recommended Items: First Aid Kit, Tool Kit, Anchor, Tow Line, Bailing Device, Marine Radio or Phone.
What Boaters Should Know About Personal Watercraft Safety
The increase in popularity of personal watercraft has resulted in an increase in complaints. The most common complaints received by law enforcement are due to reckless or negligent actions by the operators. It should be noted that fines for reckless and/or negligent operation of water vessels are very expensive. Reckless and negligent operation of a vessel shall include, but is not limited to the following examples:
- Operating at an excessive speed within 100 feet of another occupied vessel except in a crossing or overtaking situation as described in the Federal Rules of the Road.
- Jumping or attempting to jump the wake of another vessel within 100 feet of the vessel.
- Following within 100 feet of a water skier.
- Weaving through congested vessel traffic.
- Speeding in restricted or no wake areas.
- Operating a vessel or personal watercraft in a manner that endangers the life, limb, or property of any person including the operator.
- Bowriding or allowing a person to ride any place on the vessel where there is a potential risk of injury. This includes, but is not limited to, riding on the exposed bow decks, riding on swim platforms, riding on gunwhales, or riding any place on the vessel which was not designed as a normal passenger seat.
- Operating the vessel with operator’s visibility obscured due to passenger positioning.
Do & Don’ts of Personal Watercraft
We want everyone to have fun, but also remember to be safe and responsible. It is your duty as a boater to know and observe safe boating rules and practices to prevent collisions, injuries, and death. For everyone’s safety, here are a few basic rules to remember when you are operating a boat or personal watercraft.
- DO observe no wake zones.
- DO stay clear of swimmers, scuba diver down flags, and other watercraft.
- DO maintain a safe distance from boat docks, bridges, and other structures.
- DO wear a Coast Guard approved personal flotation device at all times when operating a personal watercraft. It is also recommended that an approved whistle be attached to floatation device for use in case of emergency.
- DO have a lanyard-type engine cutoff switch attached to your person, clothing or flotation device when operating a personal watercraft.
- DON’T jump the wake of any motorized watercraft.
- DON’T operate any vessel under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
What Boaters Should Know About Wake
Wakes and Boaters Legal Responsibilities
A wake is the path of moving waves a boat leaves behind and is a natural product of boating. All boats create wake which will produce undesirable effects. By understanding wakes and what can be done about them, boaters can take a big step towards making the water more relaxing and enjoyable for everyone. Wakes can have an effect on safety, property and wildlife.
- Wake may endanger inexperienced swimmers or wading anglers.It can rock, swamp or capsize other boats.Passengers might be thrown off balance or overboard, leading to serious injury.
- Wake may damage docked boats by thrusting them against their moorings.Trees that have fallen into the water could be washed up against docks or other structures.Shoreline property owners may lose a small part of their land to erosion.
- Sediment can be churned up by boat wake and settle to the bottom, silting in fish spawning habitat and smothering aquatic vegetation, an important food source for many fish and animal species.
Limiting Your Wake
- Always be aware of your wake, especially when changing speeds or navigating in shallow waters. (Which can make wake larger).
- A little extra speed can create a lot of extra wake, so slow down enough to eliminate your wake when required
- Trim tabs will help keep you boat level and will limit your time in transition speed.
- Boat in deeper waters, and avoid getting too close to other boats or the shore.
- Position passengers throughout the boat. A heavy stern will increase wake size.
- Your wake moves out at right angles from your boat, so slow down well before you are abeam of another boat or other structure to avoid a following wake
Protecting Against Another Boat’s Wake
Chances are, you will have to face a large wake created by someone else during your time on the water. Here are several things you can do to safely navigate through a wake:
- Warn your passengers! Passengers below deck are especially at risk of hitting their heads or falling, so be sure they can hear you.
- Slow down before the wake arrives to lessen impact, but don’t stop completely. You need headway to be able to maneuver through the wake
- Have passengers who may be susceptible to injury stay aft.
- Instead of crossing a wake perpendicularly, cross at a slight angle (quarter the wake) so your bow can grip the wave longer. This will keep the bow from being thrown high in the air.
- While overtaking another boat, cross it’s wake quickly instead of riding it. Signal the skipper, keep both hands on the wheel, and stay away from the other boats stern.
- Try not to take a wake on your beam. Instead, turn into the wake and come back on course when it is passed.