Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries officer Brett Clawson was recently named 2019 Boating Officer of the Year.
Clawson was recognized for his efforts on Smith Mountain Lake that included multiple arrests of intoxicated boaters.
He joined VDGIF in 2016, moving from Harrisonburg where he worked as a police officer. He said a primary focus while patrolling was to keep an eye out for drunk drivers, something he has continued to do in Franklin County.
During his time patrolling the lake, Clawson has made eight boating under the influence arrests and convictions. He recently received recognition for his work from Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
Clawson said he is constantly on the lookout for signs that a boater may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, which can include slurred speech, fumbling hands, bloodshot eyes and the smell of alcohol. “It is just the overall behavior of the individual,” he said.
In addition to Clawson’s efforts to get intoxicated boaters off the water, his patrols have led to 135 boating-related arrests. Clawson also has been on the scene during investigations for 10 boating-related incidents.
Patrolling the lake can be a challenge during busy summer months, Clawson said. It also can be dangerous at night with boaters who may not know the area, have defective lights or are intoxicated.
Even so, he said boating education has greatly improved safety. It is something he continues to promote at multiple events each year.
While he is not patrolling, Clawson often participates in area events to promote boating safety, including most recently attending the Roanoke Boat Show at the Berglund Center.