When Anne LaMorte applied for a job with Glen Cove’s Harbor Patrol almost a year ago, she was thinking mainly about two things. For one thing, “It was something I was qualified for,” she said, and for another, “I have a passion for the water, so I definitely knew I’d like it.”
Later in the process, after a rigorous vetting process and, finally, an appointment by Mayor Tim Tenke, the 55-year-old La-Morte learned that she would become the first woman ever to be an officer in the Harbor Patrol. She also learned how to interview and sometimes arrest dangerous boaters, how to bring a speeding vessel to a fast stop and how to jump from one vessel to another at speeds of more than 40 mph.
After 12 years of living in Glen Cove and working for the city’s development agencies, LaMorte, a mother of three grown children, decided that it was time to get back to her seafaring roots. “I grew up with boats,” she said. “I’m a scuba diver, and I love to water ski, I love to swim.” After she got married and began to raise her children, she said, “everything kind of stopped. Now that my kids are older, I want to get back to that.”
She described being on the water as her “happy place. . . . When you’re swimming or kayaking,” she said, “it’s very peaceful.”
The tasks that LaMorte and three other new Harbor Patrol appointees are training for, however, aren’t exactly conducive to serenity. In addition to high-intensity boat maneuvers, she learned techniques for water rescues and recovering bodies from the water — “I’d much prefer a rescue to a recovery,” she said. She was also taught to deal with intoxicated, potentially dangerous boaters.
“Every vessel has a weapon on it,” Harbor Patrol Chief John Testa said. “A fishing pole, a knife, a flare gun” — or even, he added, the boat itself. “We try to give our officers the best training possible as law enforcement officers on the water, for their safety and the safety of people enjoying the water.”
The training process for officers, and their approach to their sometimes risky duties, is similar to land-based law enforcement, Testa said. But that doesn’t intimidate LaMorte. In fact, she recalled, her high school career aptitude test results suggested that she go into either the military or law enforcement. “I think it’s probably the structure that I like,” she said.
Even her work as a financial officer at City Hall — which she will continue in addition to her new duties — is structured in a way that makes her comfortable, LaMorte said. “It’s like a second family,” she said of her office colleagues. With the Harbor Patrol, a part-time, seasonal commitment she’s expanding that family. “I’m just branching out to more ‘cousins,’” she said.
At a City Council meeting on April 24, when Tenke called for a second on his appointment of LaMorte, Councilwomen Marsha Silverman and Pamela Panzenbeck quickly spoke up. Silverman said she was excited to take part in the historic appointment because it echoed some of the reasons she ran for office in the first place. Silverman, like LaMorte, sought a role in a male-dominated area of public service: Of the 21 seats on the City Council and the planning and zoning boards, just four are currently occupied by women.
“It really isn’t a fair representation of the diversity of our city,” Silverman said. “Women make up 51 percent of the population.” Of LaMorte’s appointment to the Harbor Patrol, she added, “It may be the start of a change, but we still have a long way to go.”