A POLICE officer will be organising a milestone celebration of a special branch of Essex Police.

The Marine Unit is celebrating 70 years of protecting Essex’s waterways since its launch in 1949.

polices 562 miles of waterways and coastlines from the Thames at Crayford Ness to the River Stour in Manningtree, working closely with partners such as the RNLI, the National Crime Agency, Port of London Authority, Border Force and the Coastguard Agency.

PC Dawn Wood has served on the Marine Unit for the past 16 years and is organising a celebration event to mark the occasion.

Ms Wood said: "Our fundamental responsibility hasn't changed over the past 70 years.

"We're here to protect Essex, target those who exploit our waterways and bring offenders to justice.

"The marine community is a close-knit group of water users who my predecessors built a fantastic relationship with and it's a partnership that continues to strengthen.

"We are delighted to be marking this special celebration."

Originally named the River Section, a Sergeant and four Constables were the first officers to become members of this new unit which specialised in marine policing.

Over the next decade, the section grew with the addition of officers and boats to cope with increasing demand for their service, whether this was to prevent a rise in coastal water crime, the illegal importation of goods, or the utilisation of their search and rescue skills.

Divers were an addition to the Unit in 1967 and assisted with the search and recovery of evidence, stolen goods and missing people and in 1971 an Inspector was appointed to oversee the expanding unit which was renamed the Marine Section.

Policing waters during large scale events, such as the Clacton Air Show, has also been a key part of the job and in 2012 the unit played a vital role in policing the Thames around the clock during the Olympics, supporting the military and working alongside colleagues from neighbouring forces.

Marine Unit Inspector Brad Dickel added: “The sheer dedication and professionalism of our Marine Unit Officers cannot be underestimated.

"Deploying both day and night, in all weathers, in the fight against those who use our waterways to commit crime, is nothing short of exceptional.

"I am continually impressed by the level of skill, expertise and most of all, motivation the team bring to the role.

"I would like to congratulate the team on achieving 70 excellent years of specialist policing.”

A celebratory event will take place in Burnham on October 10.