The Leon County Sheriff's Office has for many years supported a Tactical Dive Team in an effort to overcome the many problems associated with using civilian divers.
The Diving Environment
It cannot be emphasized strongly enough that Law Enforcement diving is not the same as sports diving! There are many facets related to the environment surrounding a Law Enforcement dive operation. Deep cold water, zero visibility and polluted waters are the norm not the exception. No longer is there crystal clear water, beautiful corals and abundant marine life. The aquarium environment quickly turns into a black menacing atmosphere. In addition, law enforcement divers must contend with the families of victims, the media and often coordinate their efforts with other agencies. Law Enforcement divers must also consider availability of resources, depths, times, air pressure, search patterns, lines and body bags. The list seems to be endless. All of the above factors, and then some, make up the Law Enforcement diving environment.
Team Members and Qualifications
There are currently seven members of the Department's Tactical Dive Team, or "TDT". Members of the TDT are all volunteers, and are selected from all areas of the Department. The team is accountable to the Sheriff via the Special Operations Commander. Members receive no additional pay and serve in an on-call status.
Each member is required to have a minimum of an Open Water Certification from a nationally recognized dive organization. Each member is also required to successfully complete the Underwater Police Science and Technology Course.
Types of Diving Operations
Drowning investigations, homicides involving water, weapon recovery, suicides involving water, auto crashes that involve water, auto thefts disposed of in water, boating crash investigations, suspicious sinking of vessels, recovery of stolen property. The team also responds to special community needs, such as evacuation of people during flooding, assisting other agencies, location and extraction of cave dive drowning victims. The Leon County Sheriff's Office does not endorse cave diving. However, due to the nature of our local diving environment, it is all too frequently required that we oversee crime scenes involving the death of someone diving in a cave. There have been seven such recoveries in a five year period.