It's been mentioned once or twice before that I like Police LEGO, that in fact it's my favourite Town sub-theme. Today's set was the second Police set I acquired, after 6625 Speeder Trackers.
4012 Wave Cops came out the same year, 1996, as Speed Trackers, and thus belongs to the same "generation" of LEGO policemen: black-and-white vehicles with trans-medium-blue glass pieces, and the yellow star logo on a black-and-white shield. And a lot of guys wearing sunglasses.
I bought Wave Cops in the summer of 1997, one of the earlier sets that I bought with my own money, and in the very early days of getting LEGO more than three or four times a year. The fact that this set was a Police set specifically is 100% why I picked it up, and the fact that it expanded the Police force beyond the highways of my LEGO town to the seas was an added bonus.
Looking at the set itself, however, the fact that this is a boat is hardly incidental. In fact, it is not generally categorized as a part of the Rescue (Police) subtheme, but as part of the "Really Floats" sub-theme. LEGO released three Really Floats sets in 1996, and Wave Cops with the mid-range of the three, with two minifigs.
Not that this set has a lot of pieces. As one can tell from the pictures, it's not that the piece selection is bad... it's just that the hull accounts for a LOT of the set. Since the purpose of the set is to "Really Float" (which it does), it's hard to criticize this set on the grounds of juniorisation, yet that's exactly the sort of problem the set would give a builder: what, if anything, can you build out of its pieces that would not be another Police boat?
Nonetheless, this didn't strike me as a bad thing back in 1997, since I wasn't in the habit of taking my sets apart. Officers George and Anthony Smith (one should note a family resemblance, facially, to the Smiths in Speed Trackers) rarely rode actual waves--I think they may have had two excursion into the bathtub--but this hardly fazed them, or me.
Over the years, Wave Cops would be pushed into the background of my LEGO memory, as newer and more wonderful sets with more interesting characters pushed forward, and the gimmick of "Really Floats" wasn't enough to compete. Nonetheless, it was the largest "ship" in my Town fleet for many years--indeed, until I got another Really Floats ship in the late 2000s, and it retains a nostalgic quality simply for being a Police set of that era, and a part of my collection from that era.