What does an Anguillian Marine Unit policeman actually do during his day job? This interesting question I put to Sergeant Eversley Browne, of the Royal Anguilla Police Marine Unit recently.
“We do a bit of everything,” says Sgt. Browne, a veteran of 22 years on the force. “Primarily it is search and rescue, other activities are secondary.” The unit is tiny, just seven officers; one sergeant and six constables, to man two patrol craft. The main problems the Unit deals with are people on boats in distress.
“We have a number of those that we deal with each year; people get lost or run out of fuel, engines break down or whatever; we deal with it all.” The primary focus is in saving people’s lives. “Sometimes we have quite a few [incidents] and other times hardly any. Most of the cases the Unit would have dealt with in recent years are tourist related. Some of them come here, probably sailing for the first time and run aground on one of Anguilla’s reefs or something like that. Or they run out of fuel because they do not know how to use the sail when they rent a sail boat and only use the engines, get stuck when they run out and are drifting. We have to go out and assist. If someone goes overboard we are also involved.”
At present all but two of the Marine Unit’s officers are trained scuba divers. A Special Constable was recently recruited particularly because of his advanced diving skills.
The local boat races, something Anguilla is famed for, present headaches for the Marine Unit. “There is no regulation as such for all those privately owned vessels that go out with a number of persons on board to trail the races. To go out without life preservers it is one thing I don’t like. There is nothing in law that states that once you are going to sea you should have certain equipment; most of the time you see a lot of boats overcrowded and without life preservers. Some cases you have people who can’t swim. We are always there as we know an accident is always possible.”
“An average day is made up of shifts,” continues Browne. “But because of our small number, the shift system is just one patrol a day and regular police officers are here later in the evening, in case something happens. They would then call us out because we do not have enough [officers] to have more than one group. We are trying to get the establishment up to double what we have. We are stretched by being on a regular patrol in the day time, returning home and then being the same ones who have to come back out [if necessary]. It is different to those persons who work in an office. This is unique. Put the men from the Marine Unit on land and they function but you can’t take anyone from land into the Marine Unit, as it is very specialised.”
Sgt Browne’s initial training was in Canada, whilst the rest of the unit were trained in Antigua. “The Canadian Coastguard College offered courses to Caribbean islands at the Transport Training Institute. There were training courses there in the 1980s until the 1990s and then training started in the islands. We learnt anything about the sea; navigation, ship husbandry, the basics. This takes some time because you need sea experience, you don’t just want to be on land. I also do surveying. If you became a specialist in what you do it takes quite some time, as you have to first become a police officer and know the laws.”
Two of the Unit are specialist Engineers. Constable Jermaine Fleming, whose dedication to community service sees him playing the bass drum at civic functions in his off duty hours with the Anguilla Police Community Band, known far and wide as the ‘Police Band,’ undertakes the engineering trouble shooting for the Marine Unit and Constable Pierre deals with in-depth servicing on the patrol craft.
Anguilla’s sailing community can sleep soundly in their beds knowing that the men and women of the Marine Unit are just an emergency call away.
British-born Penny Legg writes for magazines and newspapers in Anguilla and other parts of the Caribbean, the US and the UK, and takes photographs which accompany her work. She is married with one son.