Marine Patrol Officers Agree to Return to Duty Without Guns
Source: Candlewood Lake Authority
June 18, 2010
CANDLEWOOD LAKE – Jun. 18—The Candlewood Lake Authority will be able to muster enough marine patrol officers to put a full force on the lake for the foreseeable future.
Mark Toussaint, the authority’s vice chairman, said Thursday that the authority’s leaders met Wednesday night with members of the patrol and many officers agreed to return to duty — most without carrying firearms for protection.
“They’re pretty passionate about what they do out there,” Toussaint said.
Larry Marsicano, the authority’s executive director, said 15 members of the 27-member patrol agreed to start work. He and Toussaint said they’ll try to contract the remaining 12 officers and sound them out about returning.
“I can’t tell you how happy I am,” Marsicano said. “First, because we’re putting patrols out on the lake, and because we’re going to be able to maintain all that experience.”
The officers’ agreement to return to the lake means the authority’s Marine Patrol will have two patrol boats and two officers on personal watercraft to work on the lake.
Toussaint said that’s a normal complement of officers for a weekend. He said he expects the patrols to continue throughout the coming weeks.
This weekend, the lake will have a regular Marine Patrol for the first time this summer.
In late May, the week before Memorial Day — one of the busiest weekends of the year — the authority decided to pull the patrol off the lake because the state Department of Environmental Protection refused to provide a supervising officer.
The DEP, which lost many senior conservation officers to early retirement in 2009, said it could no longer staff the supervisor’s position. It also claims a 2009 agreement between the DEP and the authority did away with the need for a supervisor for the patrol.
In turn, the authority has maintained that its decade-old agreement with the DEP about the marine patrol, along with its bylaws and state statutes, have precedence over the 2009 agreement.
Without a DEP supervisor, the authority said, the officers, and the authority itself, would be at much greater risk from lawsuits.
This dispute was settled, in a way, last week when the authority, the DEP and the five towns around the lake agreed to compromise, with the DEP providing a supervising officer this summer.
In fall, when the recreation season ends, the town leaders hope to sit down with the DEP and take a new look at the relationship between the DEP, the authority, the five towns, and the Marine Patrol.
But as part of this compromise, the five towns, the authority and the DEP agreed that none of the officers could carry handguns on the lake unless they have certification from the Connecticut Police Officers Standards and Training Council, the same certification police officers get.
Only two of the Marine Patrol officers have this level of training, while the remainder get a yearly firearms certification from the DEP.
Toussaint said the officers were concerned that without firearms they could put themselves at risk when dealing with belligerent, alcohol-influenced boaters at night.
“It’s different during the day and at night out there,” Toussaint said.
But in the end, Marsicano said, the officers decided to return to the lake to maintain safety.
“None of them do this to get rich,” he said.
Contact Robert Miller
or at 203-731-3345.
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