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West Ventura County Focus

OXNARD : Training Puts Coast Guard Skills to Test

July 27, 1993|JULIE FIELDS

Oxnard Police Officer Felice Epps didn't hold back Monday when she played a drug-smuggling, weapon-toting boater off the Ventura County coast.

Drawing on her experience as a patrol officer, Epps resisted the efforts of Coast Guard officers who were trying to search the boat she was on during a training exercise.

She yelled. She screamed. She faked reaching for a knife.

"We harassed these poor folks," said Epps, who reveled in the chance to play a crook during a joint training exercise with the Coast Guard. "We were just as obnoxious as we could be."

The point of the exercise was to give Coast Guard officers experience boarding boats in hostile situations caused by drug smugglers or drunk party-goers.

Petty Officer Marc Engelbrecht said the performance by Epps and two other officers wasn't too far from reality. "They generally acted like some of the less cooperative citizens we run into," he said.

The operation also gave the Oxnard Police and Fire Departments' underwater search team a chance to practice their skills by diving for a package tossed overboard by Epps and two other would-be drug smugglers.

After an hour of searching near the breakwater at Channel Islands Harbor, the divers came up with a brick, marked "one kilo."

Oxnard Sgt. Chuck Hookstra said the mock cocaine was found several hundred yards from where the divers had begun their search.

Oxnard Lt. Bob Elder said the joint maneuvers, which were followed by a barbecue in the parking lot of the Coast Guard Reserve Center on Victoria Avenue, were also intended to foster more cooperation between the Coast Guard and Oxnard police. In the past, Oxnard's dive team has searched underwater for murder weapons, stolen cars and illegal lobster traps.

Elder said the team trains about every two months. "We try to make each training scenario different," he said.

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