Marine Patrol Officer
What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?
Scott Couture is a Marine Patrol Officer for the State of Maine. He patrols the waters of midcoast Maine and is primarily responsible for enforcing fisheries conservation law, but he has the authority to enforce all the laws of the state, even those ashore, like any other police officer. Scott began his career when he read an ad in the local newspaper; he had just returned from Bosnia as an MP in the Army Reserves. Before he joined the Army, Scott had worked as a deckhand aboard sailing ships and loved being on boats and around the water.
“Previous experience on boats or with law enforcement is not required to apply, but it certainly does help. After my application was accepted, I was sent to the Maine Criminal Justice Academy for 18 weeks of police training—all of Maine’s law enforcement officers are required to attend this school. Next, I was off to the Marine Patrol School to learn about Marine Resource Law and small boat operations. Finally, I was assigned to a station and began real work on the water, working closely with an experienced officer for a full year before I was officially on my own.
Maine has only about 40 field officers to cover more than 3,000 miles of coastline, and each officer is responsible for his/her own section or “Patrol” of the coast. Most of the people in my area make their living from the sea. The largest fishery here is lobstering, but people also make a living from clamming, scalloping, groundfishing, urchin harvesting, shrimping, worming, bait fishing, sport guiding, and oystering. Each type of fishery has license requirements, size restrictions, catch limits, and gear restrictions that need to be enforced. I patrol my area in a police pickup truck, a 21-foot Boston Whaler, and a 47-foot fully rigged lobster boat (see photo above). Several officers will use the big boat (with a licensed captain) to haul lobster gear and patrol offshore to check on fishing activity.
My job is not just about enforcing laws. We are also primary responders for search-and-rescue operations and whale entanglements. As a member of the Maine State Police Underwater Recovery Team (we just call it “The Dive Team”), I go all across the state to conduct search, rescue, and recovery operations as well as evidence searches for criminal investigations.
My work schedule is not 9-5, and I do not even have an office. I am a field officer, and this is a large part of what I love about it. My favorite days at work are those when I am out on my boat alone on a warm summer day, when the seas are calm and the air is fresh and salty. I get to meet a lot of great people and am on a first-name basis with most of the fishermen in my area. Those are the good days, but the coast of Maine can be very unforgiving even when the weather is good. A few summers ago, a beautiful yacht ran aground and was being thrashed on the rocks, and the couple who owned the boat had been injured, one seriously. With the help of a local fisherman, I got my boat alongside through the breaking waves and rescued them, along with their dog, Ivy, and brought them to safety. You hope that these things don’t happen, but it is gratifying to be able to help when it is needed.
Not all my time is out on the water. A great deal of paperwork has to be filed with every incident. Marine Patrol officers are like regular police officers, and we also have to go to court for trials—not my favorite aspect—but it is all part of the job.
I never realized how beautiful Maine is until I was able to explore its rugged coastline, wooded islands, and quiet coves with my patrol boat. Most people who have known me from childhood were very surprised when they heard that I became a cop, but, when I tell them about my typical day, or better yet, when they come to work with me for a day, they understand that I have a pretty awesome job.”
Did You Know?
The Age of Sail was said to be the domain of “wooden ships and iron men,” but sailing ships also had boys on their official crew lists.
Today, you have to be 14 years old before you can get a job in most states in the US, but in the Age of Sail both merchant ships and navy vessels signed on boys as young as seven years old as regular members of the crew.
What were these kids doing on board sailing ships?