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FROM THE HELM On Jan.19, 20 officers from the FWC and the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office—on six patrol boats—carried out a night raid on boats anchored in Boot Key Harbor. The police had been doing “raids” for several days at several anchorages throughout the Keys, but this was the final big one. We first heard about it from a couple who have written for the magazine, live on- board their boat and are guests of the state of Florida. The Keynoter quoted FWC Officer David Dipre, who proudly claimed, “We helped educate the public, ensure cleaner water in the Florida Keys, and helped prevent boating accidents or injuries due to improper lighting or the lack of proper safety equipment.” If Dipre calls this education, then he obviously has never been educated, as that is not how education works. That is how a police state works. Education is quite different. During the raids in the Keys, 262 vessels were inspected, 80 warnings were issued and 85 citations written for boating violations. Several arrests were made for narcotics (the evil weed marijuana?), there were two outstanding warrants, some misdemeanors and—a resource violation (?). All vessels were checked for marine sanitation devices. I bet these officers wish they could

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March 2007

SOUTHWINDS

Police Officers Carry Out Nightime Raid in Boot Key Harbor get the laws changed so they could raid homes on land (sorry, officers—that you can’t do), because if they did, the number of laws, rules and regulations broken, like out-of-date smoke alarms, marijuana possessions, building code violations, underage drinking, expired drivers’ licenses, pirated music and software (resource violations), etc., etc., etc., would be staggering. They would have a field day. They would be so happy. Officer Dipre also said they helped clean up the water. The pollution that comes from boaters dumping compared to the pollution coming from land in the Keys is like a grain of sand compared to all the sand on the beach in Key West, where beaches are regularly closed from pollution originating on land. Raid that. How many boating accidents did Dipre prevent due to improper lighting or the lack of proper safety equipment? I’d like to see the statistics on boating accidents by people who anchor out and sleep on their boats? How many accidents do those people cause compared to the everyday accidents that occur from powerboats racing around while their operators are drinking? I think you are going after the wrong crowd, Dipre. Were there any officers who had high enough moral standards to say no? Who would not take part in such a travesty of

justice? Who would rather quit than be part of such a police action? If there was one, let’s get that officer’s name and make him a public hero. The only reason this raid was carried out was for one simple reason: Because they could. Laws for inspecting boats are not as protective of individual rights as those protecting homes against illegal search and seizure. But just because they could do it, they did. Thank God for the Bill of Rights, which was set up to protect us from people like these—I thought. How about this for education?: Notify all the boats in the Keys that there is going to be a daytime inspection done starting on a certain date. Then make a list of all those items that will be inspected. Make copies that are available to boaters for free (if the county can’t afford it, I personally will pay for the copies). Boaters will have a chance to get their boats together and all their gear and their MSDs in proper order. Then the officers come around and inspect the boats and help the boaters to understand, educating them on what the proper equipment is. That’s education, Dipre. When it is all said and done, the boaters respect the inspectors, who treated people with respect. Imagine that. Steve Morrell, Editor

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