2012-02-16 / Editorial

Do we really need police on the water?

A new debate opened this week on whether Jamestown needs police officers to accompany the harbormaster on the water.

At its monthly meeting the Jamestown Harbor Commission approved Police Chief Ed Mello’s request for $2,000 to pay for a police officer to ride along with the harbormaster through June 30, which is the end of the town’s fiscal year.

A request for $10,000 to fund police officers on harbor patrols for the remainder of the summer was tabled for further debate.

This raises the big question of whether Jamestown really needs police full time in the harbormaster’s boat. The Harbor Commission was not convinced and we’re not sure that islanders will be, either.

There is no argument that it does make sense to increase the harbormaster manpower during special events. This summer we will have two such activities back to back which will have a huge impact on Jamestown: the America’s Cup World Series and the Ocean State Tall Ships Festival.

There will be a major increase in the boating activity surrounding Conanicut Island during both events. We have to remember that Jamestown is only tasked with harbor patrol. Narragansett Bay is the purview of the U.S. Coast Guard.

If a manpower increase is necessary to staff the harbormaster on water patrols, it would make more sense to hire a deputy harbormaster and put that individual in a second harbor boat. That way there can be one boat on the east and west sides of the island. Two boats can patrol the east bay during the major events.

We’ve had much discussion on whether to increase mooring fees and how that money should be used, especially in the maintenance and repair of waterfront infrastructure. But its rare that a police officer is needed by the harbormaster. We’re not sure putting police on the water full time is necessary.

This is a topic that needs to be explored further, with input from island residents and the boating public.

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