Patrol officers — both on land and water — marine firefighters, divers, explosive detection, and joint terrorism task force; these are just some of the daily roles fulfilled each day by the Port of San Diego’s Harbor Police Department.
The Harbor Police Department is the law enforcement authority for the port.
Comprising of 130-sworn officers, the department is prepared to protect and serve the citizens and visitors in the Port of San Diego’s five member cities — San Diego, Coronado, Chula Vista, National City and Imperial Beach — as well as San Diego Bay.
“Harbor Police officers have a very unique job because of the diversity of their mission,” said Harbor Police Chief John A. Bolduc. “Officers provide law enforcement services for San Diego International Airport and collaborate with local, state, and federal partners in a wide variety of public safety and security functions.”
One of the unique attributes of Harbor Police officers is they are cross-trained as marine firefighters.
"The unique role we play as both police officers and marine firefighters demands that we be able to change on the fly,” Bolduc said. “One minute you are on patrol in a vessel or patrol car, and if you get a fire call, you have to stop what you’re doing, change into firefighting gear, and respond to the scene as quickly as possible.”
Harbor Police have six K-9 officers, five of which are assigned to the Explosives Detection K-9 Team. The team is currently the only Transportation Security Administration (TSA) certified explosive detection team south of Los Angeles.
The team is primarily assigned to respond to San Diego International Airport and the Port Tidelands. In addition, they are available to respond to all areas of San Diego County. The team has, on numerous occasions, aided federal, state and municipal public safety agencies.
There is never a dull day on the job.
"Coming here every day presents a new opportunity,” said Cpl. Jonathan George, a member of the K-9 team. “One day you may work on a car patrol handling arrests, and on that same day you may go on a boat and fight a fire. There are so many things that we do that other police agencies don’t do that draw a lot of motivated candidates to come work here."
The port also has one Narcotic Detection K-9 Officer.
Officer Pedro Arce and his narcotics detection canine, Quinny, were recently recognized by the Board of Port Commissioners. In June, the team detected three pounds of methamphetamine during a traffic stop on Quinny's first day on the job. This contributed to 11 pounds of methamphetamine that was seized by the team in just one month.
Quinny has been able to spot drugs in locations that may be missed by officers and is positively reinforced with a reward for discovering narcotics.
"It's amazing," Arce said. "There are times where you might not think there is anything in the car, boat or house, and Quinny will use her nose to indicate where that narcotic odor is."
The San Diego Harbor Police Department also has a regional asset in its exceptionally skilled dive team. This team is specially trained in search and rescue, evidence and body recovery, underwater explosive detection, vehicle recovery, and many other surface and underwater capabilities. The Dive Team has two sergeants who supervise a 20-member team. All members are able to be called in for any water emergency, around the clock. The team also has a dedicated primary dive boat as well as a towable Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB).
The Harbor Police were formed as part of the port in 1962 and has played a unique role ever since. Officers are responsible for law enforcement and firefighting on and around the Bay. The Harbor Police soon developed a professional dive team, and added expertise in the areas of boating enforcement, marine fire fighting and airport law enforcement. During the last 50 years, the Harbor Police Department moved from a small office and trailer on Shelter Island to a Headquarters Facility with three additional satellite offices around the waterfront.