By Bo Tibbets
The differences may at times be subtle BUT they do exist, so be prepared!
Does your Public Safety Dive Team perform both Crime Scene Investigations as well as Non- Evidence Recovery Operations? While many agencies are being tasked to perform with less resources and tighter restrictive budgets, we must not overextend ourselves with our capabilities. It is imperative that we exercise our trained ability to the level in which you are working and not beyond.
Let’s take a closer look as public safety divers. What is our role? What environments do we work in? What are we searching for? As crime scene investigators, we are piecing puzzles together to determine if a crime or foul play was actually committed. Could it have been a suicide or can we conclusively say it’s an accident? We, as crime scene investigators, are often times working backwards to find answers such as: Who committed the act? When was it carried out? Did the crime scene take place here or was the evidence discarded in this body of water? If it is in fact a body, who is the victim and what means were used to perpetrate the crime?
Most of the time our public safety dive teams are working in a recovery capacity. We are looking for evidence that may include weapons, cash registers, motorcycles and vehicles. Ultimately, they will be tasked with searching and recovering a body. Make note: “it is imperative that the operation being performed is safe and within the scope of your training and capabilities.”
At some point your dive unit may be asked to recover items that are non-evidentiary in nature. Perhaps an individual forgot to set their parking brake and the vehicle rolled backwards into a lake. Perhaps an individual’s water pump hose broke (in board motor) and the boat filled with water and sank. Does your public safety dive unit recover items such as boats and vehicles which have been submerged accidentally? What about someone who is driving while intoxicated and drives into a canal (the individual is able to extricate and get out on his own)? Does your dive unit recover the vehicle? Do you consider an ice dive to be a confined space? If so, you may be working under Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) within the US, Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for the UK and Diver Certification Board of Canada (DCBC) in Canada regulations, and there is a long list of others depending on the country in which you are working. I encourage you to ask yourself, “Is this a commercial dive operation or public safety dive operation? Am I taking on more liability than meets the letter of law?”
You may want to examine the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) Competency Standard for Diving Operations (CSA Standard Z275.4) for Canada and in the US OSHA Regulations (standards 29 CFR) Part 1910, Subpart T regulations or whichever governmental standard you are held to within your respective country or province. It defines the regulations that are put in place for commercial divers and also gives public safety divers and scientific divers an exemption (in the US) under the statute. It is the responsibility of your team to define under which umbrella you are operating so as to limit the liability exposure you may face should an injury or death occur during the water operation
For assistance preparing and scheduling training for your Team contact ERDI
https://www.tdisdi.com/erdi/ or call 207.729.4201
About the author:
Bo Tibbets’ career includes a marketing and economics degree from Colorado Mesa University and he is the CEO of PSDS – Public Safety Dive Supply/Services. He has been training and providing equipment to public safety personnel for over seven years within the realm of water operations including dive, swift water and surface ice operations. He is credentialed as adjunct professor under P.O.S.T. and teaches drowning investigations and various public safety dive programs at Colorado Mesa University in conjunction with the criminal justice department and the Western Colorado Peace Officers Academy. He is often called to instruct various law enforcement and fire service personnel with water related operations around the country and works closely with federal, state and local investigative entities with under water forensic investigations.