Water safety the number one priority for LMPD's River Patrol Uni - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Water safety the number one priority for LMPD's River Patrol Unit

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River Patrol will wait under bridges, ready to rescue if there is a possible jumper. River Patrol will wait under bridges, ready to rescue if there is a possible jumper.
A diver demonstrates how the murky river water can make underwater operations difficult and dangerous. A diver demonstrates how the murky river water can make underwater operations difficult and dangerous.
The boats are out for more than just BUI tickets, they patrol over 40 miles of shoreline in the interest of safety. The boats are out for more than just BUI tickets, they patrol over 40 miles of shoreline in the interest of safety.
Safety for everyone is the number one concern for LMPD's River Patrol Unit. Safety for everyone is the number one concern for LMPD's River Patrol Unit.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- LMPD officers patrol more than just the streets, and with an increase in events at the waterfront, river patrol officers have been busier than usual.

It isn't often you hear about the River Patrol Unit, but every day they cover more ground than you would imagine patrolling a nearly 40-mile stretch of the Ohio River.

“10 hours a day, we're out 365 - 7 days a week,” River Patrol Commander Sgt. Jeff Artman explains. “We've responded to incidents in Oldham County and as far south as Meade County and Hardin County."

He says while many think they're just out to give boating tickets, a lot of what they do is focused on safety.

“Our main goal, I guess, is to make sure everyone's being safe, nobody drowns and no boat accidents." Artman says the rules of the water are similar to the rules of the road.

“We do BUI, which is boating under the influence,” Artman says. “Any kind of boating safety, registration, having life jackets, reckless boating."

LMPD's four man River Patrol unit is equipped with five boats plus some flood boats. Their most common calls are boaters in need of help and bridge jumpers.

"We basically sit below and if they jump, we'll be ready to rescue. We'll have some kind of ring or life buoy to throw them. We'll jump in if we have to," Artman says.

Two of LMPD's River Patrol officers are on the dive team and we put their skills to the test by tossing our cameraman overboard. During the exercise, we learned there are several ways of rescuing someone, which can depend on if the person is injured or unconscious.

The safest is an in-boat rescue where they use a stick or toss the person a ring. “I'll throw you a ring, grab on to it and I'll pull you in,” Artman explained during a mock rescue of our cameraman.

They can also send a diver after you, but they only jump in to go after someone if it's absolutely necessary.

“History has shown us that victims tend to panic,” Artman says. “Sometimes they'll try to fight you."

Our planned rescue was successful, but often, when searching for a missing person or a body -- because the water is murky and the river is deep and wide -- the task isn't as easy.

“We've got a sonar. We've got an underwater camera and an underwater, large metal detector," he says.

The river patrol unit is busier than ever now, with Louisville utilizing its waterfront park more often.

“During concerts at waterfront park and the great lawn, we'll have a lot of people who actually anchor in the path of the barges and towboats so it's important if you come down for an event like that, to stay as close to shore as you can.” Artman says, "Even if it's not in the water, we're still out usually at those events."

As summer comes to an end, most boaters will turn in for the season, but the River Patrol Unit never takes a break. They're out every day, even in the winter.

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