Skimming across bay

The Rockport Police Department’s new patrol boat skims across the waters of Little Bay.

The ability to adequately patrol local waters, rescue individuals in peril, or even properly protect members of the Rockport Police Department (RPD) when performing their duties near the water, was seen as one of the RPD’s glaring weaknesses when RPD Chief Greg Stevens was hired.

“We didn’t have a robust marine unit,” said the chief. “We had a boat that was occasionally put into the water.”

That boat is almost 20 years old, powered by a 200-horsepower Honda outboard engine.

With the delivery of a new 28’ Shallow Sport X-3 boat, funded almost entirely with a grant from the Operation Stonegarden Program, coupled with the donation of many marine-related items by the 100 Club of Aransas County, Stevens said, “We are now a actual marine-oriented police department.

“We needed this due to where we are located.”

The RPD will work in tandem with Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Game Wardens, as well as the U.S. Coast Guard, when needed.

The new Sport X-3 provides firefighting capability, as well.

The 100 Club bought the RPD 15 personal flotation devices (PFD).

“Every officer now has their own PFD that is self-activating if it hits water,” said Stevens.

The 100 Club also donated life rings, as well as an anchor for the new police boat. Every RPD patrol unit is equipped with a life ring. They came in handy recently when a person in distress was rescued from local waters.

Twin 300-horsepower Suzuki outboard engines power the RPD’s new $210,000 boat. All but roughly $15,000 of the purchase price was provided by the grant.

“We can run it in shallow water or offshore,” said Stevens. “I don’t know that we’ll ever chase someone, but if we do, we’ll catch them.

“It is a versatile platform that allows us to operate in all areas.”

Stevens said the best thing about having the new police boat is the RPD will be able to quickly get to people who need help.

RPD Patrol Commander Larry Sinclair said the boat can be in the water within 15 minutes during daylight hours.

“It will take about 15 minutes more at night,” he said.

Sinclair said the RPD is “more missions capable” with the delivery of the new boat.

“Almost all of our officers are Certified Marine Safety Officers,” said Sinclair. “Five are certified to operate the boat.”

(Note: This is the second major unique asset purchased with a Stonegarden grant. The RPD’s BearCat armored vehicle, bought roughly 10 years ago, served a useful purpose in Hurricane Harvey. RPD CID Commander Jerry Lawing transported first responders across the county in the eye of the storm. The unit was famously lifted off the highway and set back down again as it traveled through the eye wall. Grant funds have also been used to purchase night vision glasses, as well as regular patrol units. Stonegarden funds are made available through U.S. Homeland Security.)

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