The City of Lawton has two major lakes, Lake Lawtonka and Lake Ellsworth. Lake Lawtonka is available for use by skiers and swimmers, and both lakes are widely used for fishing and boating. Additionally, there are at least six large ponds located in public recreation areas along with two main creeks that pass through the city. All of these areas are easily accessible to the public and create potential dangers under normal as well as rain swollen conditions.

Recognizing a community need for quick, professional responses from a highly trained Emergency Dive Team , Officer David Schucker submitted a written proposal outlining its advantages, costs, and purpose. In the summer of 1993, the Lawton Police Department's Emergency Response Dive Team was established with team members using their personal equipment for training and operational activities. Originally, the team was composed of four divers, Officers David Schucker, Mark Foreman, Robert Bishop, and Brian Morris with Lieutenant (now retired) Michael Mahaffay serving as the team's supervisor. Possessing only "Open Water" certification acquired on their own time and at their own expense, the divers were soon sent to specialized training in SCUBA Life Saving and Accident Management.


The Dive Team's goal was to shorten response time for providing life-saving possibilities in boating accidents and offer recovery capabilities for drowning victims, evidence, and personal property. One of the most important functions at scenes of tragedies is to lessen the amount of time required for recovering drowning victims. Experience has proven that long waits for recovery exacts a great toll on the families of the victims as well as the officers involved.


The first official team "call-out" occurred on September 26, 1993 for the recovery of a drowning victim at Lake Ellsworth. Using their newly acquired training, the divers recovered the victim's body quickly, professionally, and safely. Since then, the Dive Team has been called out for numerous operations including more drowning victim recoveries, searches for possible weapons involved in homicides, recovery of lost property, searches for stolen property, and searches for and recovery of submerged boats and vehicles. On several occasions, divers have been able to recover personal items for citizens who have lost jewelry, keys, etc. in the lakes. In each one of these operations, the Dive Team has been able to provide professional services while projecting a positive public image and proving their worth as a valuable asset to the Lawton Police Department.


The City of Lawton has purchased a total of eight complete sets of SCUBA equipment and eighteen SCUBA cylinders. With eleven members, it requires some sharing of equipment on training days where all of the team practices practical applications and scenarios in anticipation of future call-outs. Through scheduled training days and specialized schools, most of the team members have already achieved "Advanced Open Water and Master Diver" certifications. They have also received training and certification through the United States Coast Guard in Boating Skills, Safety, and Seamanship.


The Dive Team works conjointly with the Lake Patrol section of Lawton Police Department under the direct supervision of Lieutenant James Cowley the Lake Patrol Supervisor. This cooperative effort provides access to the Lake Patrol boats and other equipment including marker buoys, rope lines, and First Aid supplies.


Team goals for the future include the acquisition of underwater communications, advanced certification for the remainder of the team, and specialized "Search and Recovery" certification for all of the team members.


For further information or questions regarding the Emergency Dive Team, contact Captain Wade Shaw or Lieutenant Charles Crawford, (580) 581-3270.