Maritime law enforcement overkill?

The motto of the state police here is something like “always there when you need them.”

The motley crew I shared a distant lunch break with used to supplement that motto with, “and most times when you don’t.” It usually got a chuckle and round of head nods. I mention this because I believe that the law enforcement presence in the U.S. has gone steroidal since the 1980s.

For instance, just look at local maritime law enforcement. Every dock I walk, every pier I pass and every coastal bite seems to have expensive fiberglass emblazoned with a law enforcement insignia. What gives? Walking along the dock recently I passed four separate law enforcement vessels. Do we really need this much law enforcement presence? Is this a wise allocation of our limited funds?

Those who school around this blog already know my answer. I’m all for law and order, but I’m against a police state. I’m against the flood tide of paramilitary presence creeping over our shoreline. What happened to the harbormaster with his friendly wave piddling around on a single outboard? Now he or she is armed and behind 500 seahorses. Even the environmental cops charge to and fro armed to the teeth in vessels worth far more, by my lowly estimate, than any illegal catch they may seize.

I ask you, is this grand land under attack from the sea or from within? I’m worried about losing Loran (go ahead, snicker) and worried about this beefed-up police presence.

Let me know if you think I’m off base. Send me your own examples of this. Does all this waterborne law enforcement actually do anything that justifies the tax expenditures? Could we get by with a much smaller seaward presence?

Standing by and observing all no wake zones.

About the author

John K. Fulweiler

John K. Fulweiler is a licensed mariner and experienced admiralty attorney. He represents individuals and companies throughout the East and Gulf Coasts and has recently taken command of his own maritime law firm. He enjoys navigating the choppy waters of the maritime law, but readily admits to missing life on the water. He can be reached at . His website is

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