When you ask Santa Barbara Harbor Patrol Sgt. Ed Stetson what attracts him to his profession, most likely he'll tell you it’s the variety. Stetson remembers well his first month on the job, 23 years ago "During my first month of work," he recalled, “we had a wharf fire, a major vessel collision, a drowning, numerous boat tows, some emergency medical calls and a couple of arrests “There was never one single point that I knew this was the career for me. With each call, I realized just how fortunate I was to have this job. There was excitement and variety. But Stetson, profiled by Noozhawk as one of Santa Barbara’s Top Cops, admits it’s a job he needed to carve out for himself. A job, he explains, he helped turn into a career. Prior to 1985, the average employment with the Harbor Patrol lasted about three years.
“In 1985, I successfully negotiated public safety status for the Harbor Patrol. This literally changed the position from a job to a career,” he said.
Also clear to Stetson is that while he is an armed peace officer, law enforcement is only a portion of his job. Harbor Patrol deals with most of the law-enforcement calls within the harbor district, he explains, but the patrol also depends on the Santa Barbara Police Department when needed. “In a sense we are jacks-of-all-trades,” he said about his team at the Harbor. “(We are) marine firefighters, ocean search and rescue, medics, lifeguards, Coast Guard-licensed boat captains, tow boat operators and marina managers.”
Stetson, a scuba instructor at UCSB for the past 28 years, is quick to acknowledge the importance of teamwork at the Harbor Patrol. “Every officer comes to this job with their own unique specialty. All the different specialties of each officer comes together and we form a very unique, well-balanced and strong team,” said Stetson, himself a specialist in scuba diving and marine mammal rescue. Because there is no formal academy for aspiring Harbor Patrol officers, employees are expected to attend a variety of courses on their own. To hear Stetson describe the harbor is to capture a glimpse of a life, and lifestyle, many may never know. Maintaining a safe environment in the harbor community is something he can be rightly proud of. “The harbor is a very unique area. It can almost be called a city within a city,” he said. “There are commercial fishermen working among the pleasure boaters; people who live on their boats; travelers who top off on their voyages; restaurants and businesses; tourists. "Crime is relatively low at the harbor. People are generally very good about looking after each other and their property of others," he added. "It is a little community, and people are proud of the harbor.”