Officers take part in water training, prepare to keep waterways safe this summer

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After two deaths on area lakes last summer, Game, Fish & Parks and the Pennington County Sheriff's Office are gearing up and preparing to keep our waterways safe.
The Pennington County Sheriff's Office and Game, Fish & Parks officers were making a splash, all for the Water Enforcement Patrol Officer Course, a training exercise that helps officers feel comfortable in the water.
Officers were in the water in full uniform, learning about response to resistance drills and water rescue.

Joe Keeton says, "Anytime our officers are out on the water and in a boat, they need to know how their bodies are going to react. If something horrible happens, they fall in the water, what our equipment is going to do, what our weight limitations are going to be, so, you know, when our officers have a gun belt on, it's an added 18 pounds of weight."

Tessa Thomas says, "After two drowning deaths last summer, this training is vital to make sure everyone is safe out on the water."

Keeton says, "As far as accidents and horrific things that happen on the water, I don't know that we can prevent all of that. There's some things that we can mitigate with some of our operators, operating under the influence and getting careless operators and reckless operators off the waters, so that the water is safer."

But when it comes to drowning prevention, Keeton says that's up to the boaters themselves.

Keeton says, "We ask that the boaters put life jackets on their children, set a good example, were a life jacket yourself. Like I said before, life jackets aren't big and bulky anymore, you can buy an inflatable jacket that's actually comfortable to wear."

Keeton says the course helps officers gain confidence in their equipment and with the life jackets.
He says to remember that one tragic incident can change your life forever, so it's important to know the rules of the water.