Forming The Dive Team
The Merced County Sheriff’s Dive Team began in 1985. The Merced County Sheriff’s Office acquired the responsibilities of the Dive Team from the Merced County Fire Department. The Dive Team was led by then Lt. Bill Blake, who later retired as the Undersheriff, and about half of a dozen certified Deputy Sheriff Divers. The Dive Team serves the citizens of Merced County and the State of California in various capacities, missions and assignments.
The Dive Team strongly corresponds with the Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Team for the purpose of any swift water rescue. Currently the Dive Team consists of fifteen certified divers and three support personnel. The Merced County Sheriff’s Office Dive Team has traveled to several counties throughout California including, Tulare, Stanislaus, Tuolumne, and San Joaquin, to assist other Sheriff’s Offices with search and recovery efforts.
The Merced County Sheriff’s Office works closely with the California Office of Emergency Services to respond to any need within the Central California Region and throughout the state. In addition, the Merced County Sheriff’s Office also works with local municipalities within the county’s jurisdiction.
Dive Team Equipment Advances
The Merced County Sheriff’s Office provides the Dive Team with the most modern technology in order to fulfill their duties and missions. Former Sheriff Tom Sawyer purchased the first set of surface supplied commercial dive helmets and equipment for the Sheriff’s Office. The surface supplied helmets provide better communication between divers and support personnel. It also provides the divers to have access to unlimited air supply under water.
The advancement in technology for the Merced County Sheriff’s Office continued when former Sheriff Mark N. Pazin purchased underwater SCUBA communications gear. Each diver obtained a communications/regulator face mask in expectation that the diver will need to communicate while using their individual dive equipment. The Merced County Sheriff’s Office purchased several Sheriffs’ boats with modern side scan sonar and radar to allow technology to aid the search underwater. The Sheriff’s Office technology advanced progressively with the addition of the remote operated underwater vehicle, commonly known as the ROV and towable side scan sonar.
After the authorization by the current Sheriff Thomas I. Cavallero, the Merced County Sheriff’s Office purchased two new modern Kirby Morgan 37-SS surface supplied helmets and an air control box to upgrade the Sheriff’s equipment. This allows more than one diver to be in the water at the same time. In addition to these purchases the Merced County Sheriff’s Office purchased a 22’ Rogue Jetworks law enforcement boat. The boat contains several pieces of technology including side Scan Sonar, GPS and Top Water Radar. It also features a "Wing" hybrid collar to protect itself as well as the other vessels when they come together on law enforcement actions (vessel stops).
The Merced County Sheriff’s Office recognizes that the advancement in technology and the equipment for divers are important. The Merced County Sheriff’s Office seeks to further the technology and equipment advancement for the Dive team. The technology and dive team equipment advancement will provide better safety for the divers while they search the dark and murky waters for drowning victims, removing submerged vehicles or evidence.