Elite training in North Charleston adds to safety of U.S. border

Elite training in North Charleston adds to safety of U.S. border
Source: WCSC
Source: WCSC

NORTH CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The Maritime Law Enforcement Academy in North Charleston is the only place in North America where an elite training program takes place to increase security along the waterways.

The program is called "Shiprider", or officially known as Integrated Cross-Border Maritime Law Enforcement Operations.

It's a joint partnership between the U.S Coast Guard (USCG) and Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).

This week 28 students from both agencies were in the Lowcountry taking part in this extensive program.

It's happening at the Maritime Law Enforcement Academy (MLEA) at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in North Charleston.

"We are the premier law enforcement academy worldwide," said Lt. Gregory Hersh, U.S. Coast Guard, who oversees all the advanced training at the center. "We have the best platforms, the best abilities of any maritime-based law enforcement training."

This Shiprider training program is held three times during the winter months.

The eight day course is filled with several hours spent in the classroom and out in the field, taking on real-life scenarios.

The students look at different situations that could happen in the shared waters between Canada and the United States.

"The criminals don't recognize the border, so this is a game changer for our organizations and two countries to work together," said Chief of Foreign Operations Joseph Banco, with U.S. Border Patrol.

The program has officially been in effect for two years.

However, since 2005 diplomatic discussions have taken place about this unique program.

Since then the USCG and RCMP say they've been nothing but impressed.

"It's actually progressed very well," said Sgt. Rodney Franklin with RCMP. "We've had significant drug seizures on the west coast of Canada, we've had some activity in the Great Lakes area."

A drug seizure was one of the scenarios students encountered during a boarding session Wednesday.

The students have a total of 14 boardings they must do as part of the course.

Ten of those are for practice, while four are for the practical application to the Shiprider program.

In order to be successful in the drill, the group has to follow and understand the laws of both countries in order to make the operation legit.

"We have to respect each other's sovereignty," Sgt. Franklin said. "So there are specific things that have to occur in order to do that well. We have no leeway in terms of those skills."

There are currently 240 Shiprider-trained and cross-designated officers.

The 28 students in the current course will find out Friday if they passed the test to become one of the elite.

Seven of the students are from the RCMP and 21 are with the USCG.

Full-time Shiprider operations have been established in: Surrey, British Columbia/Bellingham, Washington State; Victoria, British Columbia/Port Angeles, Washington State; Windsor, Ontario/Detroit, Michigan; Niagara on the Lake, Ontario/Buffalo-Niagara, New York; and Kingston, Ontario/Alexandria Bay, New York (the Thousand Islands area of St. Lawrence River).

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