NAPLES — During the "Super Bowl" of local events for law enforcement officers, canoe race revelry was cut short Saturday for at least eight people, who ended up behind bars.
Fourth of July and Memorial Day are busy with boat traffic, said Sgt. David Bruening of the Collier County Sheriff's Office marine unit, but the annual Great Dock Canoe Race "is our Super Bowl."
From marijuana possession to boating under the influence, law enforcement agencies ran a tight ship in curbing illegal activities Saturday. Last year, four arrests were made related to the races, all but one for boating under the influence.
The event, which began Saturday afternoon with canoeing contests in Naples Bay and ended with camping and parties on the southern end of Keewaydin Island, is an exercise in interagency coordination. The Sheriff's Office teamed with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Coast Guard to monitor open waters while Naples police patrolled the bay.
Two boating under the influence arrests were made Saturday. Other charges faced by revelers included battery, obstruction of justice and disorderly conduct.
Additional details about the arrests weren't immediately available.
Post-race parties on Keewaydin can attract 550 to 850 boats and 5,000 people or more.
With that knowledge, Bruening said, marine unit officers tried to make themselves visible in the weeks leading up to the race as a warning to would-be drunken boat operators. The Sheriff's Office made plans to post about 40 deputies Saturday on or around the island.
It's not just the actions of regular fun-seekers that are under scrutiny at the races.
Last year, an anonymous complainant alleged in a letter to Sheriff Kevin Rambosk that two off-duty Collier deputies encouraged women to remove their shirts. An internal investigation concluded the allegations weren't sustained, citing insufficient evidence to prove or disprove them.
The two off-duty deputies in question were at the 2011 races and openly consuming alcohol, the investigation found, but their actions did not "rise to a violation of policy," according to a June 2011 memo to the sheriff.
However, the internal investigator suggested one of the men "may want to reflect on his off-duty actions especially when attending functions where he may be publicly scrutinized." There was no such similar comment for the second deputy.
Bruening said there's no list of what conduct is appropriate for deputies at the races, and that agency policy dictates.
Still, the message is clear, he added.
"We're not out there to have a good time, (but to) keep people safe and enforce the law. It's not a weekend at the beach for you."