Tulare County Board of Supervisors voted to put sheriff deputies on Lake Patrol at Lake Kaweah and Lake Success. Kern and Tulare are the only counties in the state to patrol their lakes by civilians.
Currently, the Lake Patrol unit is under the county’s General Services Department. The civilian attendants are represented by Service Employees International Union Local 521.
After the board of supervisor’s vote, it was decided to move this function over to the Sheriff’s Department. For the next few months sheriff deputies will shadow and work with the Lake Patrol members.
Neil Pilegard, head of Parks and Recreation, said that patrol boats are on the lakes 12 months out of the year from sunrise to sunset.
Right now, civilian boat patrol employees are in charge of keeping boaters and swimmers safe and helping those in trouble.
But they cannot make arrests and find it difficult to curtail disruptive or dangerous behavior or get violators off the lakes. The employees have badges and uniforms but are not sworn officers and lack the equipment to protect themselves.
After a trial period, sheriff deputies should be taking over lake patrol fulltime.
The move was supported by SEIU spokesperson Jose Sigala who said that the county employees had been concerned for their safety.