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By Rodger Rees, Galveston Wharves Port Director and CEO
Our Port of Galveston Police Department does a remarkable job of handling a complex operation. Headed by Chief Kenneth Brown, our staff of 32 is responsible for public safety and security at a busy, 840-acre port facility with almost 1,000 ship calls, thousands of workers and more than 2 million cruise passenger movements a year.
Chief Brown, who has more than 25 years of law enforcement experience, oversees the 24/7 operation with four shifts of law enforcement officers and dispatchers.
While we deal with many of the crime prevention and law enforcement issues that you find in any city, our officers receive specialized training to respond to situations unique to ports. They’re responsible for enforcing state and federal laws and ensuring port security.
Officers are involved in almost all aspects of daily port operations. They monitor and assist with entry to secured areas, meet with the captains of arriving ships to review regulations and security directives, facilitate cargo movements, and monitor port facilities for safety and environmental hazards.
In 2021, they reported 1,300 incidents, ranging from parking violations, contraband offenses and public intoxication to assaults and thefts.
The Guest Relations Business
By far, ensuring public safety at North America’s fourth busiest cruise port is the task that keeps our officers most busy. Each week, thousands of passengers pass through security as they board and disembark cruise ships.
Many of the laws that apply to air travel apply to cruise travel. We want to remind passengers that traveling with marijuana, ammunition or firearms, even with a concealed carry license, is not allowed. We want every cruise passenger to have a great experience as they travel through the port and encourage them to be aware of and follow the law.
Port Marine Division
What would be a port police department without a Marine Division? Specially trained port police crew a 31-foot police boat equipped with state-of-the-art navigational and rescue equipment. Officers patrol Galveston harbor, escort vessels embarking and debarking from the port, conduct waterside pier sweeps to ensure port security and safety, and assist with search and rescue missions in the Galveston area.
Tightening Port Security
After the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, new maritime security laws were put in place for all U.S. ports to better identify and deter threats. Ports were required to conduct vulnerability assessments and develop security plans that include passenger, vehicle and baggage screening procedures; security patrols; restricted areas; personnel identification procedures; access control measures; and surveillance equipment.
A Public Safety & Security Network
We closely coordinate with local, state and federal agencies. These include the U.S. Coast Guard, FBI, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, Galveston County Sheriff’s Department and city of Galveston police, fire and emergency medical services.
Our port police operate at the highest law enforcement standards. In 2021, the department earned accreditation through the voluntary Law Enforcement Best Practices program established by the Texas Police Chiefs Association. Our department is one of only 184 police agencies out of 2,784 that have adopted and maintain this gold standard for Texas law enforcement.
I’m proud of the work these unsung heroes do to keep our port, its thousands of workers and its millions of guests safe and secure. Go blue!