New bomb technicians on the job
In keeping with the treacherous times, two Kingman police officers have recently been certified as bomb technicians, specially trained to investigate, detect and dispose of explosives.
Dave Turk and Officer Dennis Gilbert, both with military backgrounds in ordinance disposal, recently graduated from a federally run school in Alabama and are now certified by the FBI as bomb technicians.
Turk and Gilbert have taken over for KPD Chief Larry Butler who, until recently, had been the only specially trained bomb technician in the Kingman area.
Turk learned his craft in his seven years in the Marine Corps, as an instructor for two of those years in defusing booby traps and mines.
"I never had a fear of it," Turk said of his potentially dangerous occupation.
Butler is handing off the duties to Turk and Gilbert who were certified at the Redstone Arsenal in Alabama.
Turk became certified in July while Gilbert is KPD's newest bomb technician completing the class this month.
Gilbert also learned explosive ordinance disposal in his 20 years in the Marine Corps.
The 2-year KPD vet said during his recent class at Redstone, four New York police officers and an Arlington, Va.
firefighter had to cut short their training after the World Trade Center and Pentagon bombings Sept.
11 to return home.
"You have to respect it," Gilbert said of bomb disposal.
"It's like crossing the street as a kid.
It seems scary at first but as you grow up you see it's not that scary.
Bomb disposal is the same way.
You do everything remotely as much as possible.
It's always safety, safety, safety."
Both men are still required to complete 16 hours of additional training each month.
Every three years they have to be recertified by taking a one-week refresher course on new equipment or types of weapons.
Classroom training at Redstone includes hands on testing where a technician has to defuse an explosive device.
Technicians have to go into a specially design building rigged with pretend explosives.
Instead of actual explosions, flash bulbs will go off when a student makes a mistake.
"You have to look at the device and tell what kind it is," Turk said.
"It's kind of like working on a puzzle.
You work on what kind of wires they are and where to cut them."
Other classroom training also includes instruction on weapons of mass destruction such as nuclear, chemical or biological devices.
"Doing hands on training is more fun," Turk said.
"You learn more when you work with the actual equipment."
Bombs found in Mohave County usually are leftover dynamite from old mining operations or an occasion pipe bomb.
In his 15 years with KPD, Turk, 48, said he has seen no more than several pipe bombs being found.
Black powder dynamite is the explosive most commonly found in the county because of the numerous former gold and silver mines that dotted the area.
Old military ordinance is also commonly found, usually leftover from the former army base once located at the airport.
Half dozen World War II anti-tank land mines were recently discovered at the county landfill.
Methamphetamine labs can also be a risky since they can be booby-trapped.
Bomb technicians would be called into a drug lab to check for traps before other officers move in.
Once a bomb is found, the typical and safest way is to simply attach an explosive device to it and blow it up.
This is usually done at the department's firing range.
KPD is also looking at buying a magazine, or a bombproof room, for disposing explosives.
One piece of equipment in the department's arsenal is a $12,000 Kevlar bomb suit that can protect the wearer against fragments from a bomb blast.
The 70-pound full body suit also includes a protective helmet.
Another piece of equipment is an X-ray machine that can detect the insides of a suspicious package.
The department also uses a computer that once attached to the X-ray machine can see inside a package in real time without waiting for the film to be developed.
The department can also use a disrupter, a weapon looking like something from a science fiction movie, which can fire a shot severing the firing device on a bomb and thus breaking the connection.
The Arizona Department of Public Safety has a robot device, kept in Flagstaff, which can be used to get close to a suspicious bomb.
KPD's bomb squad usually works around Kingman and the neighboring area but will go to Golden Valley, Dolan Springs or outside the county for a methamphetamine lab bust, Turk said.
Bullhead City Police Department has two of its own bomb technicians.
Lake Havasu City currently has one technician with another officer being trained.
A police department needs a minimum of two technicians to make a squad, he said.
Mohave County Sheriff's Office does not have bomb technicians and will call in KPD's bomb squad if needed.