The first recorded police diving operation in West Yorkshire was carried out by two officers from the Leeds City Police on 30 June 1955. Using borrowed equipment they searched a flooded quarry in the Bradford area for the body of a girl who had drowned. Although the operation was not a success, the Leeds City Force did purchase some equipment.
Today, the force can now call on a dedicated underwater search team that covers the Yorkshire and Humber region, which consists of 9 divers and a sergeant. The primary task of the Yorkshire and Humber Underwater Search and Marine Unit is to provide a fully trained expert unit which is responsible for searching the rivers, lakes, canals, reservoirs and ponds.
Unlike sports divers, who wear a wetsuit into which the water can penetrate, police divers wear a dry-suit which seals them off from the water and keeps them clean and dry. The waterways in which the divers operate contain many diseases. Consequently, divers are inoculated against just about everything the medical profession can protect them from. They also use a full face mask which protects their skin from the dirty water.
Police divers are always attached to a person on the surface by means of a lifeline which now carries a wire within it by which the divers can communicate by radio with their attendant on the surface. In the event of the radio communication failing the diver can still communicate by a system of pulls on the line.
In order to make the task of searching easier, a system of search techniques are employed which vary depending on the type of item being searched for and the water conditions. The one most often used by the West Yorkshire Police divers is a ‘tight line search’ where the attendant either stands still, which allows the diver to search in an arc, or walks alongside the diver and at a given point turns them round to search another area on the return sweep.
When looking for small items the search is a very slow process as each item on the water bed has to be examined. When searching for a large item such as a car or a dead body, then the diver can search more quickly. If the item being sought is definitely in the water then the team members guarantee to find it no matter how long it takes.
- Updated February 2013