Writers’ Police Academy recruits are required to attend Saturday morning announcements for important updates and safety briefings relating to the day’s activities. This year, thanks to beautiful blue skies, we held the meeting outside at the driving track.
The group of approximately 200 writers were still a bit dazed and sleep-deprived following a Friday that began with breakfast at 6 or 7am, and ended with sessions lasting well into the night—ride-alongs, tours of a local jail, orientation, the first workshop of the sexual assault investigation workshop, and a late night outdoors demonstration of high-risk traffic stops.
Instructors asked the group to move away from the center of the track, leaving a purple backpack behind, an item no one claimed. So, with everyone’s safety in mind, officers called in an explosives detection canine and its handler. WPA recruits were moved further away from the scene.
After a couple of sniffs the dog promptly and gently settled to the pavement next to the backpack, the “sign” that it had detected explosives of some kind. Explosive detection canines do NOT scratch, paw, or bite at the packages they inspect…for obvious reasons.
It was time for a Hazardous Material Team to take over, so the canine handler and her dog quickly moved out of harm’s way.
The nearest HDT unit was from the Greensboro North Carolina Police Department.
As soon as they were in position the HDT went into action, which is at a bit slower pace than, say, a SWAT team. A HDT must be certain that each detail of an operation is carried out safely. No exceptions.
The first orders of business are to activate the bomb robot and to have one member of the team “suit up” in protective gear.
Next, the robot begins its slow crawl toward the suspicious device.
Once there, the robot conducts a brief inspection, which is viewed in real time by officers inside the mobile command post.
With the inspection complete, the robot moves in to pick up the item and move it to a safe location for detonation.
The “suited-up” HDT member carefully attaches a “hot” charge to the backpack. The explosive material is placed inside a small balloon-like container which is then placed inside a plastic water-filled bottle. When the charge is detonated the blast propels the water outward, totally destroying the package and it’s contents, including bomb material, etc.
Once the officer is safely back to the command post, a team member alerts everyone around that an explosion is about to occur. He shouts, “Fire in the hole! Fire in the hole! Fire in the hole! Then, the charge is activated. The blast that follows is nothing short of deafening and bone jarring.
As you can see in the above photo, the backpack is no longer a threat to the WPA and the WPA recruits. When the smoke and dust settled, officers answered questions during a brief Q&A session.
That’s how we start the day at the Writers’ Police Academy. What do you do after having your Fruit Loops?
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Thank you all for making the 2013 WPA such a huge success. As you can clearly see, the WPA is not a watered-down citizens police academy. Our event is the real deal. Writers’ Police Academy recruits receive actual police training in workshops and sessions taught by some of the best in the business. Besides, where else can you play cops and robbers with Lisa Gardner and Kathy Reichs…
Remember, please write Sisters in Crime and tell them how much you enjoyed the WPA and, how much you appreciate their support of the WPA!