Jan. 10, 2006–Thirty officers, mostly from the V.I. Police and Fire departments, learned Tuesday what components make a bomb and what those components look like after the bomb has exploded.
Bill Hamilton, a former supervisor with the U.S. Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, conducted the exercises at the V.I. National Guard facility in Estate Bethlehem. He said the officers went through three "table-top" exercises that day.
In the first exercise, officers were introduced to the various components that make up a bomb, while in the second one, they were shown what those components look like after the bomb explodes.
In the third exercise, officers went through the debris left by actual explosions. Their job was to find clocks, pipes, switches, wires and other material to help determine what kind of bomb it was. As the officers went through the debris, instructor Phil Kersey said, "I have only one rule. Keep everything on the table. Any material that falls off the table is lost evidence."
The exercises were part of a weeklong program. For most of the officers, including one from the Anguilla Police Department and one from the Office of Homeland Security, the program means getting rudimentary exposure to what bombs do and how they can be traced. However, for 10 of the officers this is just the beginning of more extensive training.
According to James McCall, deputy police commissioner, the U.S. Virgin Islands was certified to have its own bomb squad six months ago and received funding for such equipment as a bomb disposal truck and a total containment vessel in which bombs could be exploded safely.
Hamilton said that the speed at which the Virgin Islands was certified was almost "miraculous."
McCall said that up until a year ago the territory depended on the Roosevelt Roads Naval Base in Puerto Rico. When that base closed, the territory found itself dependent on Miami for in-depth bomb investigations.
Novelle Francis, territorial police chief, said that the training the officers were receiving would be extremely beneficial to the department. He also noted that the Virgin Islands generally has more bomb threat calls than actual bombs.
Hamilton said that the training would make officers better able to respond to bomb threats also. He said that once a bomb disposal unit is completely trained, one of its charges is to go out in the community and instruct business owners and government officials in the best ways to respond to bomb threats.
The officers' training was to continue Wednesday on St. Croix with officers watching actual bombs going off at the Howard Wall Boy Scout Camp on the south shore of St. Croix.
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