The Citizens Police Academy is a public outreach program offered by the Sevierville Police Department. The academy is a ten week program and is open to the public at no cost.
The work of the bomb squad was the focus of the Citizens Police Academy. The bomb squad is the arm of the police department that is called in during bomb threats and when suspicious objects are found in strategic places. The squad is comprised of seven officers. Two of the officers are members of the Sevierville Police Dept., two are members of the Sevier County Sheriff’s Office, two more are from the Pigeon Forge Police Dept. and one is from the Gatlinburg Police Dept. The squad is funded by Homeland Security.
Officer Mike Odom of the SPD was on hand Thursday to present class and to discuss the equipment and procedures of the squad. Odom discussed different types of bombs used by criminals and terrorists.
When a suspected bomb is discovered and the squad is brought to the scene, they first approach the bomb with a remote controlled robot to determine the type of bomb. The information uncovered helps the squad to determine the best way to defuse the bomb and how to proceed.
The protective suit worn by the officer that will be closest to the ordinance is made of Kevlar. The helmet alone is 35 pounds. The officer wearing the big and bulky suit must get help from two other officers who help him don the protective gear. The gear is simply too heavy for one person to get into it without assistance.
Pipe bombs generally have a cap on the end that must be removed to defuse the ordinance. Using the robot the squad can remove the cap to defuse it. On rare occasions the squad must use the robot to detonate the device if it is deemed impossible to defuse.
Along with pipe bombs, the squad must practice defusing tactics on improvised explosive devices (IEDs). These devices are typically made with ammonia nitrate and aluminum powder. It was this type of IED that was used by Timothy McVeigh at the Oklahoma City bombing in 1994.
In these uncertain times law enforcement must take any and all suspicious activity seriously. Occasionally, the threat turns out to be legitimate. Other times, it’s innocuous. Odom recounted an event in which police were dispatched to Tanger Outlet Mall to investigate a potential bomb. The item was a suspicious purse that had been left next to the mall’s power supply in a secluded area. The bomb squad was dispatched and began preparing a robot to enter the area where the suspicious purse was left. As the squad was making preparations, a woman walked up and told police she had mistakenly left it there earlier that morning.