More Cross-trained Troopers Ready for Waterways

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OSAGE BEACH - Memorial Day weekend kicks off the boating season for the summer. Missouri State Highway Patrol, or MSHP, Captain Tim Hull said they're more ready than ever this year.

"We have to be able to watch traffic and enforce traffic laws as well as those on the waterways," Hull said.

"To be able to do that we cross-trained roadway officers to be able to enforce the laws upon the waterways, create safe environments for boaters, and learn the safety operation of boats, which is much different than it is in a car."

MSHP Corporal Scott White is one of the cross-trained troopers.  He said highway patrol and water patrol are more similar than one would think.

"We all know what intoxicated drivers look like, it's the same on the boat as it would be on the highway, and just the process of arresting and processing those people are a little bit different," White said.

White said training is similar as well. The difference lies in the different laws for waterways and roadways.

"Quite frankly, we realize people are out here on vacation trying to have a good time, but it's still pretty serious business what we have to deal with," White said.

Tyler Baublitz visits the Lake of the Ozarks sparingly, being from St. Louis. He said it's a great place to bring his dog , enjoy the water and feels safe around the many boaters.

"I think a lot of people down here own their boats, so they've obviously have been doing it awhile and I think they know what they're doing," Baublitz said.

Missouri's Marine Operations merged with the MSHP January 1, 2011 and have been cross-training troopers ever since. Before the merger there were approximately 65 troopers that worked on the water.

"Today we have 79 officers assigned basically to marine operations and we have an additional 88 officers that have been cross-trained to work both road way and the water way," Hull added.

Last year, Missouri had 17 boat fatalities and 37 drownings. Currently, there have only been two boat fatalities and three drownings for 2014 to date.

Missouri and Oklahoma are the only two states with a water enforcement division through the highway patrol. For the other 48 states, their water enforcement comes from parks and recreation services or other law enforcement agencies.