Milwaukee Harbor Patrol officers ready for a busy season

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MILWAUKEE -- Memorial Day Weekend marks the unofficial start of summer, and officers with the Milwaukee Harbor Patrol are ready. They say now that boating season is in full swing, they want to remind people that drinking while behind the wheel of a boat, is the same as drinking and driving.

"It's a calling to be out here. Those of us that are out here absolutely love what we do," Milwaukee Police Officer Nicole Gengler said while patrolling the Milwaukee harbor Saturday, May 26th.

Since mid-April, the Harbor Patrol has been covering the Milwaukee waterways from north to south and 40 miles into Lake Michigan.

"Our mission is to enforce the safety of the boaters on the water, enforce state and local regulations and just make sure people are having a safe, fun good time out here," Officer Jim Swiercz said.

Their job is to make sure people are safe while they are enjoying the water in Milwaukee.

"We'd like boaters to pay attention. When they're coming across other boaters, slow down, and not to speed too close to one another. Stay away from the swimming areas and make sure they're paying attention to all the speed limits in the river and all the marinas," Swiercz added.

Like any police officer, they are enforcing the laws of the water every day.

"Mostly, we see a lot of speeding on the river and an occasional drunk boater. The limit for drunk boating is the same as it is in a vehicle, .08. They'll be processed just like if they were driving a vehicle drunk," Swiercz said.

Other violations the officers look for are expired or missing registrations. On FOX6 News' trip with the patrol, they stopped a small zodiac boat without a visible registration.

"The reason we're stopping to talk to you today is you don't have your registration displayed on your boat," Gengler said to a gentlemen operating a small boat in the Milwaukee River by the Sail Loft restaurant. The man showed that he has the registration, but Gengler got his boat card and identification anyway and her partner ran a check.

"Once we do stop a boat, we perform a vessel safety check. We're insuring that everybody has the right size life jacket on, batteries are covered," Swiercz said.

That's what Gengler did as she also checked to see if there was a working fire extinguisher on board.

The man was let go with a warning.

"Even on the bad days, it's a nice challenge and we all like being out here," Gengler said.