Cape officers take customs training
The Cape Coral Police Department’s Marine and K-9 Units participated in cross-training recently with customs officers to expand their authority.
Ten members of the CCPD attended a training course May 26-27 at Florida Gulf Coast University. Cpl. Ron Rischmiller, of the Marine Unit, said the class consisted of more than 100 members of various law enforcement agencies.
“The course was designed to cross-certify local officers,” he said.
The training provided officers with the knowledge and authority to assist local customs officials in enforcement and to investigate cases along side customs. Every member of both Cape units participated, Rischmiller said.
“We certified them to assist on certain customs authority,” Brendan Quigley, resident agent in charge of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Office of Investigations in Fort Myers, said. “We cross-designated them.”
According to Quigley, Cape officers would use the training primarily as a border search authority for land or water. For example, if officials have reason to suspect drugs or money are on a boat that enters U.S. waters from international waters, they have the authority to search the vessel.
“If we some reason to believe something is going on here, they have the authority to do that,” Quigley said, adding that authority of the officers had extended to a federal level compared to what state law was allowing.
“It gives them some federal authority that they didn’t have,” he said.
The training, which was free for the participating agencies, was conducted and paid for by ICE. Quigley explained that the benefit of the training was it increased the number of officers with some customs authority in the area.
“It’s a force multiplier,” he said. “We have 11 special agents and we’ve got to cover five counties, so for us we get 155 guys out there that can help us out there on our cases. That’s a huge benefit for us.”
“For them, it’s a two-way street on the investigation,” Quigley said.
He explained that ICE has a good asset sharing program when it comes to money and goods seized during an investigation, which could mean revenue.
“For us, it’s a great force multiplier,” Quigley said. “And for them, it’s also a way to bring their cases up to the federal level.”
Rischmiller pointed to the better communication and cooperation between the agencies and ICE as another benefit of the training. He said ICE now has “many more officers out there that have their authority” and the training gives the CCPD the chance to get involved in what goes on within the Cape.
“It affects our area, and any authority to protect our area that we can get, we’re going to take,” Rischmiller said.
“I think that everybody thought this was going to be very helpful,” he added.
Quigley said no re-certification is planned for those who attended the training course, but future training will likely be conducted because of the “very good response” ICE officials received on the recent course held at FGCU.
According to Rischmiller, the last time the CCPD participated in similar training was about five years ago. At that time, about six Cape officers participated in the class, which consisted of approximately 30 officers.