The Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office implemented a Dive/Rescue program in 1990. At its inception, the Team was unfunded and the members supplied their own gear and financed their own training. At the beginning stages, then-Deputy Randall A. Liberty put himself through a Public Safety Diver Instructor Course at Dive Rescue International located in Bowling Green, Kentucky. He paid his own way there and went so far as to utilize sleeping quarters at a local armory for two weeks while attending the training. With this course of instruction beneath his belt, Deputy Liberty was able to return to Augusta as a certified Public Safety Diving Instructor where he trained his coworkers and other local first responders as divers. Throughout the following years, the Team progressed professionally and through minimal funding and access to military surplus obtained additional equipment necessary for the operations of a successful unit.
Two decades later and under the leadership of Sheriff Randall A. Liberty, the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office Dive/Rescue Team has become an earmark for the communities throughout Kennebec County as well as surrounding jurisdictions. Team members are fully certified and their equipment formally inspected and maintained, all through Aqua City in Waterville. Members store their primary dive equipment in their department cruisers to reduce response time and ensure arrival to a distressed swimmer(s) during the “golden hour”, that vital 60 minutes after a drowning is first reported. This short window is extremely important and recognized by the Team, as its first responsibility is rescue rather than recovery. The divers’ primary mission is to bring victims to shore safely and within a range of survivability. The Team has been responsible for locating five distressed swimmers who met this criteria; all of which were returned to shore alive and turned over to awaiting medical personnel.
Besides the individual equipment each diver is responsible for, the Team also relies on a truck and cargo trailer to haul extra equipment to any given scene, both of which are identified with agency insignia. With the help of grant funding and the support of the Kennebec County Commissioners, the Team recently acquired a twenty-one foot 2010 Polar Kraft vessel outfitted with a center console and the necessary emergency equipment to respond to any given situation on the open water. This vessel is also available for the Patrol and Criminal Investigations Divisions as well as the Kennebec County Emergency Management Agency during specific times of need when circumstances dictate response to urgent situations as they relate to incidents only accessible by boat.
In addition to being equipped for emergencies, the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office Dive/Rescue Team coordinates with other local agencies to assist in evidence recovery for criminal cases. These items often range from stolen property such as motor vehicles to articles like firearms used in the commission of crimes, all of which are sometimes thrown into bodies of water by the offender. Without the assistance of these specialized divers, these cases may not come to successful conclusions as the necessary evidence needed for prosecution would never be recovered. The Team has also supplemented the Maine Warden Service Dive Team in recoveries of drowned persons. To date, the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office Dive / Rescue Team has recovered nineteen bodies from the waters of Kennebec County.