by Reserve Officer Dennis A. Leventhal (#R528)
NRP Reserve Officer Lee Layfield explains water safety and life preservers to Macy, Lexi and Lily Willis.Americans get involved in a wide variety of volunteer work and the choices available to us seem to be infinite. Many who enjoy the great outdoors are finding their niche in the Reserve Officer corps of the Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP), a volunteer program that seems to appeal primarily to people possessing a strong commitment to issues surrounding boating and hunting safety.

All Wet?
One example of that type of person is Reserve Officer Lee Layfield (#R306), who was recently awarded a Certificate of Appreciation as "Reserve Officer of the Year" from the NRP. Lee, a marina manager by profession, has been in the sailboat business since 1983 and apparently cannot get enough of messing about in boats. During his five years service with the NRP Reserves he has logged well over 1,000 hours of service time. His contributions cover a wide range of activities including vessel safety inspections, PWC (personal watercraft) training, canine cadaver detection training programs, public relations work at special events such as Rock Hall's annual Party on the Bay, judging at county fishing derbies, and helping with DNR's deer kill count on opening day of deer hunting season. And like the rest of us, he pitches in when the "Regulars" need a bit of extra assistance with some of the routine grunt work, such as delivering NRP vehicles to a maintenance and repair center or patrol boat crewing.

One of Lee's favorite activities is being an instructor for the NRP's Waterwise program for elementary and middle school students. This a basic safety education program for children, most of whom like to play in, about or near water - in or out of small boats. The NRP Reserve Officer Mark Marshall and DNR's water safety mascot "PFD Panda" at Maryland State Police Open House, Easton Barrack, Easton, MD.venue is usually a public school, and the approach is to do some role-playing with a make-believe boat and real boating safety equipment.

Lee says, "I don't go high tech with this. My message is simple: Small actions can have big consequences. The focus is on life preservers... getting the right fit and the right number in the boat. I also have the children practice putting on their jackets. And I reinforce the main point...a life preserver doesn't do you any good if you fall into the water without one on!"

Lee makes his point about having a lifejacket on before you need it with a pretend boat, pretend water skis, a pretend rock...and a real squirt bottle filled with water (that last bit really gets their attention!). Other aspects of the program include getting children to think about the functions of the whistles and strobe lights that are attached to life jackets, and the importance of letting parents know where they're going to play and with whom.

Lee was recently made aware that his excursions into teaching could have a very profound effect on young minds. He had taught a Waterwise class to third graders at Worton Elementary School in Kent County. One of the students was the son of a professional colleague, who some time later called Lee to complain that his program "nearly destroyed a perfectly fine fishing day."

Apparently, when father and son were setting out on Worton Creek for a congenial day of angling, the son refused to get into the boat saying, "Daddy, we can't go till our life jackets are on. Officer Lee said so!"

The father tried to explain that while it was right and proper for a third grader to wear a preserver, they were not required for adults. Moreover he told his son, "Your dad knows how to swim!" The father complained to Lee, "No matter what I said, the kid refused to get into the boat until I put on that dang life jacket!"

Lee smiled broadly and told me, "Now that was very satisfactory feedback!"

Baby on Board?
Another Reserve Officer, Mark Marshall (#R279), has been with the program for seven years and has logged close to 2,000 hours of volunteer service time. A professional landscaper, Mark is a classic Eastern Shore native who grew up with hunting, fishing and boating in his blood and bone marrow. That interest combined with his seven years' experience as a military police officer with the Maryland State Guard stimulated his interest in supporting our NRP Regulars. Like Lee, Mark has participated in almost every activity open to the Reserves.

Mark relates an occasion when he was privileged to ride along with a Regular as an observer during a nighttime observation of some woodlands along the upper Choptank River. This patrol was for the purpose of preventing jacklighting - hunting deer at night with a spotlight - an illegal activity. The Regular explained that the thing to look for was a vehicle that was moving very slowly and sweeping a spotlight or its headlights (by turning and weaving) -- scanning for deer. This kind of activity is considered probable cause for stopping a vehicle for closer inspection.

It should be noted that Reserve Officers who are invited on a ride along are there for educational purposes only and are not permitted to perform any law enforcement activities. They may, however, handle the police radio and vehicle provided they have undergone the requisite instructional program, and are acting under the direction of a Regular.

Well after midnight and a long and very cold stake out, a vehicle was observed moving very slowly through the woods with its high beams on. The Regular Officer slid his darkened, unmarked NRP car up behind the suspicious vehicle and hit the blue light and siren.... A good catch? Actually, the apparent "perps" were a young couple who had taken their colicky baby out for a late night ride because that was the only surefire way they could get it to sleep....

Needless to say, the baby woke up.

It is unexpected moments like these that add spice to the enjoyment of donating time to support the mission of our NRP.

On May 16, 2004 Reserve Officer Mark Marshall received the "2003 Reserve Officer of the Year" award.

For more information on becoming a Reseve officer, contact Dennis A. Leventhal at denmar@maryland.net

Dennis A. Leventhal
became a full-time resident of the Maryland Eastern Shore in 2001 after 25 years' residence in China, where he represented multi-national corporations in various business development activities.  A fluent speaker and reader of Chinese, he also served previously in the U.S. Merchant Marine after graduating from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in 1962.


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