Police and firemen in Alameda, California watched a man drown on Monday after realizing they did not have proper certifications for water rescue, leaving them open to possible lawsuits if they attempted to save him.

The drowning victim, 53-year-old Raymond Zack, was apparently suicidal, according to a report from the scene. He waded out about 150 yards into cold waters off Crown Beach in Alameda and took about an hour to drown himself.

A crowd of about 75 gathered to watch the bizarre scene, which saw police and firemen just standing at shoreline watching helplessly. After the man had drowned, authorities couldn’t even go into the surf to retrieve the body. They instead recruited a passer-by for the job.

City officials reportedly blamed the incident on budget cuts and said they would have a discussion about why Alameda, an island city, does not have proper authorization to rescue people from the waters surrounding it.

UPDATE: City changes rules after police watch man drown

This video is from ABC 7 in San Francisco, Calif., broadcast May 30, 2011.