By GARY POPP
The Jeffersonville Police Department launched its new boat into the Ohio River on Friday afternoon, marking the latest step in establishing the department’s first River Patrol.
The launch into Duffy’s Landing was the first time the 27-foot Boston Whaler Challenger had been put into water.
Jeffersonville Police Department officials reported that the River Patrol will primarily be a security measure for the commercial business flowing in and out of the Port of Indiana-Jeffersonville and JeffBoat.
Residents also can expect to see the boat conducting patrols during special events such as Thunder Over Louisville and shows at the city’s RiverStage.
Grimm said the cost of the boat and all the training fees associated with getting police officers seaworthy were provided through federal funds.
“It was purchased solely on federal grant money that the police department actually applied for two years ago and received funding for this year at a cost of $162,000,” Jeffersonville Police Chief Chris Grimm said. “The boat is entirely funded by grant money.”
Grimm said the pick-up truck the department bought to pull the boat was purchased through nonreverting funds that the police gains through firearm permits, towing fees, traffic tickets and finger-printing fees.
“Technically, the taxpayer of Jeffersonville didn’t pay any of their property tax money toward anyone of these two items,” he said.
When not protecting riparian commercial interests, Grimm said the River Patrol will be active primarily on summer weekends, holidays and special events. Officers will also conduct boat inspections and be on the look out for those boating while intoxicated, Grimm said.
Grimm said the hopes the added law enforcement will result in more boaters coming to the area.
“This is just an addition to help us make sure everybody is safe,” he said.
While the boat will provide traditional water patrol, Grimm said implementing the River Patrol in Jeffersonville is a Homeland Security issue
“There is about $43 billion in commerce that comes up and down the river, and a lot of that does stop here in Jeffersonville. It is mainly to insure commerce comes up and down the river without any hiccups,” he said. “Part of their responsibility will make sure all those shipments are safe and things coming in and out of the port are safe.”
Grimm also took time to clear up the misconception that the river is purview of Louisville lawmen, since Indiana’s state line only extends a few feet into the river.
“The Ohio River is concurrent jurisdiction, which basically means Indiana law enforcement agencies can enforce Indiana law all the way to the Kentucky shores, and Kentucky can enforce all the way to the Indiana shores.”
The River Patrol will be staffed by nearly 30 Jeffersonville police officers, with the majority of the officers working part time with the River Patrol.
“This is not a full-time thing for them. They will still have their responsibilities on the street. They will still have their own patrol responsibilities to take care of before River Patrol. It should not effect the level of coverage we have on the street,” he said.
A federal grant of $363,477 was received by the police to train the officers. Grimm said he expects the River Patrol to be in full effect by next summer.
Grimm said Louisville Metro Police Department deserves thanks for working closely with JPD over the course of the summer to get them prepared to operate their own river patrol.
He said he looks forward to Jeffersonville police making the waterway safer by working in concert with other river patrol units including LMPD, Indiana DNR, Kentucky Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Coast Guard.