Article from the USA Today
By Jaclyn O’Malley, Reno (Nev.) Gazette-Journal
TRUCKEE, Calif. — Because this town of 16,000 is a home base for many stand-up paddle boarders who can be found skimming the waters of Donner Lake, police officers here have begun to patrol the lake in the same way.
The Truckee Police Department’s Adventure Recreation Community Team focuses on outreach and positive interactions with residents and tourists, Capt. Robert Leftwich said.
“I want our officers to fully embrace the Truckee lifestyle and embody who we are as a community,” police Chief Adam McGill said. “Policing in Truckee is unique, and it is our responsibility to adjust.”
Officers on the team rotate their daily patrols among paddle boards, mountain bikes and the department’s boat. Truckee police could not find any other law-enforcement agencies that use stand-up paddle boards, which have their roots in surfing, as an enforcement tool.
“It’s a very smart move by the police,” said Jared Power, owner of Movement4life. The Lake Tahoe-based holistic healing practice uses stand-up paddle boards to promote clients’ well-being; the sport uses a board and paddle to scoot along the water, building strength and coordination. “They’re making their authority accessible, and they’re showing they really understand the local community.”
Power said the police paddle board patrol also sends a message to those using motorized watercraft to be aware of paddle boarders because “they’re here to stay.”
Leftwich is a stand-up paddle boarder himself. He said the police patrols are a way for people and police to have conversations not geared around law enforcement.
“It is an activity really well embraced in our community that led us to think that if it was that important to the community, how come we’re not out there patrolling in that fashion?” Leftwich said. “This outreach is how our officers are known in the community as people — and peace officers.”
Simply seeing a paddle board strapped to a police car provides good public relations and an instant connection to the community, officials said.
Four officers are cross-trained in biking and water patrol operations, Leftwich said. The paddle board patrols mostly happen on busy weekends at Donner Lake — an Alpine lake on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada about 11 miles northwest of Lake Tahoe — and during special, lake-based events.
During the winter, Leftwich said the officers will abandon the boards and their boat to focus on mountain bike patrols when the weather permits because officers on bicycles are able to investigate trails not accessible by car and can easily interact with the public.
Donner Lake and Lake Tahoe are touted as a paradise for stand-up paddle boarders because they can look beneath their feet through the crystal water and gaze across the horizon surrounded by the wilderness.
Ronnie Ayres, whose background is in surfing and helped train the officers on the paddle board team, said the sport on Sierra Nevada lakes is an offshoot of the surfing craze in Southern California. It first became popular here five years ago.
“Over the last three years, it has grown to a dimension nobody thought it would,” said Ayres, himself a stand-up paddle board racer who owns Waterman’s Landing, a North Tahoe cafe and paddle board shop. “When the flat (lake) water market was seeing its growth, Tahoe was an obvious focal point.
“It’s really part of a fitness movement, and the enjoyment of the recreational, outdoor lifestyle,” Ayres said. “When people get into paddle boarding, they realize the beauty of the water they’re enjoying and, in turn, realize the importance of protecting it as well.”