Some officers of Kentucky’s Water Patrol say morale is about as low as the river and lake beds of the waterways they patrol, since authority over the agency was shifted nearly three years ago to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.
The 1994 transfer of oversight for the patrol, from the Natural Resources Cabinet to the Tourism Development Cabinet, was the fourth shift in the agency’s affiliation in several years. Some officers told The Louisville Courier-Journal recently that the change has eroded their enforcement duties, which included arresting offenders both on and near the state’s recreational waterways.
Don Smith, a former Water Patrol director, said the change in the oversight structure has adversely affected morale among boating officers because they are being discouraged from enforcing laws against alcohol-related offenses in recreational areas in an effort to boost citations against boaters and hunters. Prior to the change, water patrol officers had a reputation for aggressive enforcement of alcohol violations.