Tribune-Courier News Reporter
The Kentucky Senate unanimously approved SB 66 last Thursday. The bill would require law-enforcement officers to have “reasonable and articulable suspicion” to stop and inspect a recreational watercraft on any of Kentucky’s waterways.
Republican Sen. Chris Girdler, whose districts include the Lake Cumberland region, has had little trouble pushing the bill along through the Senate, but now awaits a decision in the Kentucky House of Representatives.
The bill, according to Marshall County Sheriff Kevin Byars, would set the same kind of standards for boat searches as searches of vehicles on land.
“Originally law-enforcement was able to board a vessel without reason and now it’s putting them to the same standard, which means a law has to be visibly broken in order to be stopped or inspected,” he said. “We already maintain the same standard with our deputy that goes out on patrol so it won’t be as big of a change for us, but it will take some adjustment.”
The sheriff’s department has one patrol boat – a 24-foot Boston Whaler-Justice – operated by one deputy that works random shifts according to Byars.
“I change up his shifts so no one knows when he’ll be out by the marinas or the docks,” he said. “It seems to me that by seeing us out there people are paying more attention and that there are actually less incidents.”
The sheriff’s department first got a patrol boat in 2008.