FCPD's Marine Patrol Unit maintains safety of local waters


FCPD Marine Patrol Unit officers help rescue capsized boat members near the Woodrow Wilson Bridge in June 2023. (Credit: FCPD/Facebook)

Typically, Fairfax County Police officers are known for patrolling roadways like Richmond Highway, but for FCPD’s Marine Patrol Unit, the bays and lower tributaries of the lower Occoquan and Potomac River are where officers respond to incidents.

The Marine Patrol Unit, which is the only full-time, local law enforcement marine patrol in Northern Virginia’s waters, is active close to the Richmond Highway Corridor, including in Occoquan/Belmont Bay, Pohick Bay, Little Hunting Creek, Dogue Creek and Belle Haven, according to FCPD Public Affairs. The unit has two full-time officers year-round and two additional full-time officers during summer months, as well as eight supplemental officers who help with staffing, missions and special events.

Over the course of 2023, the unit has responded to over a dozen major calls for service, which is comparable to last year, according to a public affairs officer; however, the number of people pulled from the water is increasing. One of the incidents, which took place in June, involved the capsizing of a sailboat near the Woodrow Wilson Bridge; officers helped save two community members and return the boat to the Belle Haven Marina.

To report safety incidents on or in the water, the public can call 911 or use VHF channel 16, the national distress/safety frequency for boats, said FCPD.

For those who might be interested in a career in marine patrol, officers are selected through a competitive process open to all sworn members of the police department below the rank of sergeant. Newly selected officers are required to meet training objectives on all marine patrol equipment and procedures through on-the-job training with members of the unit. Full-time and senior supplemental officers receive advanced and ongoing training, including captain’s licenses, EMT certification, swift water rescue swimmer training and search and rescue training.

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