Panama City Beach, FL-- Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen has made some changes to make service on the beach more efficient.
The changes will effect the beach and surf rescue unit meaning those deputies won't just be patrolling the beach.
For the lst several years, Bay County Sheriff's officials assigned 3 Deputies to patrol 20-miles of sand, helping distressed swimmers and enforcing laws.
When the new budget year started last fall, Sheriff Frank McKeithen realized he was going to have to provide those services with less money, so as Major Tom Ford explains, McKeithen had to make some changes
"The Sheriff back in October created a Beach Precinct to respond to calls to service here at the beach and that encompasses our Beach and Surf Rescue as well as general calls for law enforcement service."
Mckeithen assigned more Deputies to join members of the old Beach Patrol, then added Lieutenant David Baldwin to command the new unit.
The re-configuration will give the Deputies more flexibility to go where they're needed, according to Lt. Baldwin,
"Checking surf reports, checking future forecasts, and knowing when the Gulf is going to be bad, red flag days, when people can get into the water. Those are dangers for rip currents. And when we have high rip current days, we will have people dedicated to the beach."
And as Major Ford tells us, each member of the team will be trained for this special assignment,
"7 of the 20 Deputies that are assigned to the Beach Precinct are previous speed patrol deputies. They have already had the training and the experience. The ones that don't, we are in the process of sending them through that training and getting them up to speed."
The Deputies say getting off the beach will allow them to respond faster to emergencies on both Front Beach Road and Thomas Drive.