Edgartown Police receive harbor patrol designation

Edgartown police officers designated as harbor patrol with authority to enforce boating laws. —Massachusetts State Police

Edgartown Police Chief Bruce McNamee received approval from the select board Monday to amend the enforcement capabilities of the town’s police department, and distinguish all officers, from the lieutenant down, as harbor patrol.

Under Massachusetts law chapter 90B section 12, only police officers assigned to harbor patrol can enforce the state’s boating laws. The police department has to rely on the harbormaster, Environmental pPolice, and State Police to make arrests without this designation.

Edgartown Police officers have “long participated” in the patrolling of local waters, and share a rescue boat with the fire department, but officers must be appointed as harbor patrol to maintain the authority to enforce boating laws and remain in compliance with state law, McNamee said.

It’s something the town has to do every couple of years, McNamee said. Changes in the force meant that some officers weren’t “grandfathered in” from when the previous chief asked the board to make this designation. 

McNamee’s request stemmed from the 43-foot speedboat that ran aground on the Edgartown-facing side of the Chappaquiddick beach. Police officers were forced to reach out to Environmental Police for assistance, but none were available on the Island. They recommended that the town’s officers liaise with State Police.

Fortunately, State Police Trooper Zachary Bolcome was able to respond to the dispatch on May 31, at around 9:40 pm, do a field sobriety test, place the operator of the boat under arrest, and transport him to the Dukes County Jail for booking.

“We’re lucky that we had a trooper available. Had we not, there wasn’t an EPO (Environmental Police officer) on the Island; it would’ve been a difficult circumstance,” McNamee told the board.

Thirty-two-year-old Riley Blizzard was charged with operating a boat under the influence of liquor, and negligent operation of a boat, both misdemeanors. He pleaded not guilty at an arraignment June 3 in Edgartown District Court, and was released on $1,000 cash bail. His next hearing is set for June 27.

Though this event was an anomaly, the board’s unanimous approval “removes a possible loophole,” and “gets everybody on the same page” to enforce boating laws more readily, McNamee said. 

Though the harbormaster will continue as the primary maritime enforcement authority, 17 Edgartown Police officers now hold this appointment, according to McNamee’s letter to the board.

“I think this puts us in a much better position if something like this happens,” Michael Donaroma, Edgartown select board chair, said at the meeting Monday.