US Trains First Costa Rican Police Divers

US Trains First Costa Rican Police Divers

By Julieta Pelcastre/Diálogo
October 02, 2018

The agents will help with investigation and evidence search and recovery in dangerous situations.

Divers of the U.S. Border Patrol Search, Trauma, and Rescue (BORSTAR) unit work with the Costa Rican National Police Academy (ANP, in Spanish) to develop capabilities for 16 members from different security forces. The group will be the first Costa Rican dive team specialized in search and recovery. The training, which kicked off in the second week of August and is scheduled to end late November 2018, takes place at Murciélago Police Training Center, Guanacaste province, Costa Rica.

“The process started in May [2018], in Florida, with our officers’ certification as advanced rescue divers,” said Maino Alfaro, ANP deputy director, who is deployed at the training center. “It’s a technical requirement of BORSTAR to take the search and recovery specialization course focused on police work,” he told Diálogo.

The training will strengthen the capabilities of Costa Rica’s Border Police, Counternarcotics Police, National Coast Guard Service, and ANP in the fight against organized crime. The agents carry out a set of activities to gain knowledge and experience, with a minimum of 50 registered and certified immersions to pass the specialized training on search and recovery.

“Our goal is to create skills for our security forces and cut out crime,” Commissioner Eric Lacayo Rojas, ANP director, told Diálogo. “Narcotrafficking and organized crime force us to evolve and anticipate situations that happen on many channels—water is one of them.”

New techniques

Since its inception in 1998, BORSTAR, through its diving experts, offers specialized and advanced training to U.S. and foreign government agencies. Costa Rican police forces will develop basic rescue techniques, descend 30 meters underwater, and improve search and recovery procedures in deep, muddy waters that can sometimes be toxic and lethal. Divers will also conduct tasks under boats to identify explosives or illegal narcotics, at times strapped under the hull of a ship.

“[Training] lets us improve our police capabilities in maritime piers and ports to inspect ships with better technical criteria than we now have,” Alfaro said. “Narcotraffickers make external compartments to stash drugs. If we don’t have technical divers trained in these abilities, it will be difficult to detect illegal drugs.”

The work of expert divers will also help in legal investigations by searching for and recovering evidence located in the hard-to-reach seabed. Costa Rican divers will be able to retrieve bodies, weapons, vehicles, planes, containers, ammunition, and even smaller elements under the sea or any body of water.

Extreme conditions

As part of the cooperation agreement, BORSTAR presented ANP with 20 diving sets, consisting of suits, tanks, lights, compasses, and high-tech computers to register immersions. BORSTAR also donated special buoys to recover submerged objects and evidence from the water, such as an airplane.

“Each diving equipment set the U.S. Border Patrol donated is worth $5,000,” Alfaro said. “It’s an important resource for the work our officers will carry out in extreme conditions.”

For Commissioner Lacayo and Alfaro, search and recovery diving requires concentration, discipline, and willpower. “Officers understand that they will be exposed to many risks and extreme situations,” Alfaro said. “Applying all the security norms and respecting the protocols of this diving method aims at safeguarding the lives of personnel involved in this activity,” Commissioner Lacayo added.

The search and recovery training process for divers is part of Costa Rica’s ANP upgrade project. “Divers will spread the knowledge they received,” Commissioner Lacayo said. “The success of such a valuable, specialized, and necessary resource for countries’ security plans requires maintenance and attention, which implies keeping competencies up to date,” he said.