Behind The Badge – The Bangor Police Department’s Bomb Squad
We air many stories that show police forces responding to a variety of calls. The K9 unit, detectives, the Special Response Team.There are only three police department’s in the state with a bomb squad, State Police, Portland Police, and the oldest unit in Maine, The Bangor Police department.These six officers are always on call, but they love what they do.”When I was a young police officer, I looked up to a couple of officers and one was a bomb technician,” said Lt. Mark Hathaway of the Bangor Police Department. “He was on the bomb squad, and I knew that was what I wanted to do.”"We’re on call all the time. It is a big commitment,” said Sgt. Paul Kenison of the BPD Bomb Squad. “But like I said I’ve been doing it since 1996, and it’s part of my job that I absolutely love.”It isn’t a job for just anyone on the force. Candidates have to volunteer, pass training and testing, and be able to avoid the claustrophobia that sets in when you put on the bomb suit. Usually, the best candidate is a veteran officer according to Kenison. “A young officer is gung ho to save the world. They want to run in and take care of it right then and there, and this is not that type of job. It is a slow methodical think things out, plan things ahead, using kind of a logic tree, you know, what are my consequences for this action and try to figure all this out ahead of time. So somebody that’s just got a little bit of experience, typically somebody that’s a little bit older, has some maturity.”In the time Lt. Hathaway and Sgt. Kenison have been on the bomb squad, they’ve seen their jobs change a lot. “When I started with the bomb squad, everything was hands on. You approached whatever the issue was and you dealt with hands on,” said Hathaway. “Everything is done remotely now, with robots, computers, everything is just advanced. It’s amazing how far we’ve come in just a short amount of time. We still do some things hands on, but virtually everything is done remotely through use of the robot, and various computer programs another devices that we have.”"I mean it has changed just huge, huge amounts, I mean we have X-ray systems now that are computerized and digitized and they are all in real time, and we can see things inside packages that we never could before,” said Kenison. “We were shooting Polaroid films and we had one shot and you had what you had and if you didn’t get a good picture, you didn’t get a good picture. Obviously we didn’t have robots at all. Our suits were no where near the quality of protection, and visibility, and maneuverability that they are now.” It’s not like TV or the movies where they’re sweating and debating on cutting the green wire or the blue wire. The majority of their calls are much more normal said Kenison. “We’ve been called down to the post office several times for things that look suspicious in their X-ray system. We get a lot of calls for old military munitions, hand grenades, rockets, mortar shells, things like that, that have either been dug up or somebody has passed away and they had brought it home for a souvenir and now somebody else has found it and they don’t know whether it is still live or not, and so we get a lot of calls of that nature.”But they still have to be ready for any situation. The town of Hampden lets the team train at the old Hampden Academy.”One person on the the squad is tasked with coming up with scenarios for that training day, so only one person knows what we’re going to face that day,” said Hathaway. “That person runs the training day. The rest of us are presented with a problem like it’s an actual call like we have no idea what’s going on.”"Sometimes we get the locker open and it slams shut on you. Sometimes things fall over, sometimes things break down, but that’s real world and we train like it’s a real call and we adapt and improvise and try to take care of the problem,” said Kenison.When officers first start on the bomb squad, they go to a training facility in Alabama where they learn with other bomb squad members from around the country.The idea is, if needed, any member of Bangor’s Police Department can work in another unit in another state if an emergency arises.