Police Divers conduct search, rescue and recovery operations along the 68
linear miles of shoreline in the City of Tampa. The Dive Team works together
with the Marine Unit. Most dive operations take place
in low to zero visibility. The divers develop a search pattern for a site and
then literally dive by touch. They also utilize high tech side scan sonar and
underwater metal detectors. Police divers work in every division of the
department and are called out to extend the arm of law enforcement below the
Divers recover physical evidence such as weapons, stolen
property and vehicles used during the commission of a crime. To
protect evidence, it is brought to the surface in a sealed
container filled with water from the location. It is then
transported to a state laboratory for testing. Recovered weapons
can include handguns, rifles, shell casings, knives and more.
Divers have recovered more than 100 vehicles in the last five
years. The vehicles end up in the water as the result of
accidents or suspects dumping them in attempt to hide evidence.
Rescue & Recovery
Divers are trained to repel from Tampa’s bridges and jump out of police
helicopters to rescue people in the water. While these dramatic rescues are the
pinnacle of a diver’s career, they are rare. The dive team is usually working in
a recovery mode to find an accident or crime victim lost in Tampa Bay, the
Hillsborough River or one of the hundreds of ponds in our city limits.
All members of the team are trained in rescue diving and
are nationally certified public safety divers. They keep their
skills sharp with intense monthly training that requires diving
with a blacked out mask to test decision making in zero
visibility conditions. Dive skills and knowledge are continually
tested by creating high stress situations above and below water
to ensure divers are always ready for actual dive operations.
They also train to jump out of the police helicopter and to
repel down Tampa’s bridges for rescue operations. Divers stay
physically fit with regular swims across Tampa Bay.
The Dive Team plays a critical role in
keeping the nation’s 12th largest port safe. It works closely
with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Coast Guard
and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office to conduct hull
searches on high interest cargo vessels, cruise ships and
visiting military ships. Divers search compartments below the
waterline for any suspicious devices or contraband that
individuals may attempt to smuggle into the port. Tactical
divers are also trained to help the department’s Tactical
Response Team board any suspicious boat or ship.
Police divers provide waterfront security whenever
dignitaries visit a location along Tampa’s waterfront. They
conduct underwater inspections of bridges and venues before a
presidential or head of state visit. This is followed up by
proactive patrols during the visit.