Friday, January 01, 2010

Possible writing assignment

One of the issues I've been following is the tragedy that occurred recently during a holiday lights parade in San Diego Bay, when a Coast Guard boat crew ran into a spectator boat, resulting in the death of a young boy, Although it will be many long months before an investigation is completed, preliminary reports seem to place the blame with the CG crew.

Some of the remarks made about the behavior of some marine law enforcement personnel are of concern. In particular, many recreational boaters seem to believe that Coast Guard and other marine law enforcement personnel speed about the San Diego bay frequently, and place a greater emphasis on homeland security, harbor security, and vessel inspection missions, while placing less emphasis on courtesy or safety of recreational boaters. Also of concern seems to be an "us versus them" attitude that some boaters feel has increased among some younger marine law enforcers.

Although this doesn't apply to all or even to a majority of Coast Guard and other public safety officers, there may be enough of a real problem to perhaps damage relations between the Coast Guard and the boating public. If boaters nowadays have less of an image of the CG as rescuers and tend to see them as discourteous or careless, or as more interested in giving out tickets or harassing boaters, that could seriously undermine cooperation between the boating public and the USCG and other agencies. No doubt it would be a bad thing if members of the public became too intimidated or worried about negative consequences to call the Coast Guard to report something unusual. It would also be bad if boaters were so afraid of being cited for minor equipment violations that they fail to call for help during the early stages of an emergency.

Is there a problem? Some of the Coasties and public safety and law enforcement officers are real heroes who risk their own safety in appalling conditions to rescue mariners in peril, including some boaters who need rescuing because they have made some very bad decisions. What I don't want to see is the work of the dedicated professionals and heroes undermined by poor support, conflicting missions, or inconsiderate or reckless co-workers.


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