View Full Version : Law Enforcement Dive Accident Protocols
09-23-2003, 04:54 PM
I was a member of a law enforcement dive rescue team in Southern California for over 7 years. In 1998, we were the 2nd most widely used dive team in the US, primarily because we are the largest county in the US, and have training that allows us to offer mutual aid to surrounding counties. We are one of the only Law Enforcement teams that trains alongside the military, and are one of the top technical teams in the US.
I know that with the passing of Carson Young, there was some question as to how the Law Enforcement end of things were handled. While I was NOT there, nor have any affiliation with that agency, I can answer most questions you may have.
Questions pertaining to dive accidents/recoveries such as what you can do to assist, what you should recommend to Law Enforcment, what info you should vollunteer, what info you should gather, what MOST agencies will do, search patterns, etc.
I am merely offering information and am in no way trying to brag, or say I am the best qualified to answer these questions, but I feel that I can help shed some light to those "back of your mind" questions you may have.
Please feel free to post them here, and I will do my best to answer them. If I am unable to answer the questions, I can call Jeff Morgan who is quite possibly the top Law Enforcement Public Safety Instructor in the world, and get an answer for you.
09-23-2003, 05:16 PM
I think first and foremost what I would like to understand is how do you define a crime scene vs. the scene of an accident.When I went through the risk mangement part of the NAUI instructor coarse we were told that if a victim is injured and not deceased that personal items that would aid in their treatment were to be logged and sent to the hospital with the victim. I had tried to get hold ofthe computer of the diver thatwas air lifed in and was told not that it was being logged as evidence and was not allowed to take it with me to the hospital. When I insisted I was told that if I persisted I would spend the night in jail. Anyone else see the problem here ? I am sure I am gonna have many more questions to follow but will start with this one first.
09-23-2003, 05:37 PM
You are 100% on the money.
Within our department, we had seperate policy for the dive team. In that policy, and I believe the major dive agencies see it the same way, the computer goes with the diver if they are to be chambered or treated. That was what we would do with both diving victims, and our own team mates if we had "close calls".
Not to be disrespectful of the deceased, but if the person is DOA, or medics declare they can not read any sort of pulse, etc, then the computer was logged with the remaining gear to be used in the investigation. So many agencies just hand everything over to the freinds or family, and then the coroner lists "death by misadventure" on the death certificate. Luckily (poor choice of words) there is alot more divers today, and with agencies like DAN, PADI, NAUI, etc they are helping to educate agencies, counties, states in handling dive accidents.
I do agree with your original post stating they are an agency in a diving/water area and they didn't seem to know what was going on, or how to handle it.
What I would suggest is to get together with reps from Naui or even DAN and see about meeting with that agencies dive supervisor to help educate them. Dive Rescue Intl, based in Colorado, is the foremost expert in Public Safety dive training, and would definitely be a good asset as well. Generally, at least speaking from experience, if the information is presented in a "this can save your deprtment a whole lot of liability" approach, they will listen.
Not that you can go back in time, and hopefully you never go through this again, but a good response to the officer that wouldn't listen would be "Do you want the facts? If you had a perfect eyewitness that could tell you exactly what happened without lying or stretching the truth, wouldn't you want to speak with them?" and then go into explaining that the computer, when downloaded, can give practically give a breath by breath account of what happened, AND aide doctors in treatment. Chances are (again speculating) they would be a little more receptive. Threatening you with a "night in jail" was BS and if it had happened that way, I would hope the judges there would dismiss it.
Again, I am sorry for what happened and I am not even going to attempt an apology on that officer's behalf, but I see very valid, and correct points, in everything you tried to stress to him. I just think that this particualr agency needs some dive accident training.
09-23-2003, 06:26 PM
Thank you for your input ... Its funny that you mentioned Dive Rescue Intenational because for the past few months ive been gathering in and preparing myself to head out that way to attend the public saftey diver class. ONly problem is ive got to get my EMT B before I can go. As for the computer bit you wrote basicly what I told them word for word. And heres the kicker the guy who were actually running the investigation have NEVER ran a dive related injury/death investigation. It wasnt the county or the locals it was Fish and Game that was at the head of this investigation and They were the ones who were listening to us and what we were telling them about the computers and other items.The Sheriffs Dep. and Local Police were the jackasses in this while thing and in my eyes most of these guys shoulnt have been invloved since the death happened 78 miles off shore. Again the question begs to be asked where the hell was the Coast Guard ?
09-26-2003, 10:44 AM
Faust - all this did occur in Collier County after all. If it had hit Lee County somewhere, at least LCSO has a dive team and things may have been a little different.
09-26-2003, 12:39 PM
A problem that we found in most counties is that they "think" they have a dive team when they have scuba certified officers. Many counties do not realize that they have to be familiar with water related crimes and accidents. An underwater investigation is very much different than a dryland investigation. Many counties are learning this now and are seeking the proper training, whether through their police departments or the fire department. It is better for the police departments to run the dive teams as most counties do not allow the fire departments to conduct homicide investigations. As divers, we should see, and ask, what our local dive teams protocols are. If there is some way to assist in education, try to organize training and present it to them. Groups like DAN and Dive Rescue Intl, are great resources for training your local dive teams.
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