Police Must be Trained to Identify and Respond to IEDs (and ensure businesses are too)

By Leischen Stelter

It is critical that police officers are always aware of the threat of Improvised Explosive Devices. They must be properly trained about how to identify, respond to and assess the potential threats of IEDs.

This is becoming increasingly true as budget restraints mean that specialized bomb squad units cannot be sustained in individual agencies. Instead, these units are maintained on a regional basis, rather than a local one, and therefore may not be immediately able to respond to a potential IED, says Dr. Bob Dawkins, who has spent nearly his entire career focusing on IED training. During his 22-year career in the U.S. Navy, Dawkins spent 18 years as a bomb technician, with six of those years as a Master Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician.

One of the biggest gaps in IED awareness is not necessarily in training, he said. Rather, many law enforcement officers don’t get adequate threat information because they often don’t have the “right” clearances. It’s important for an officer’s ongoing training to include the latest information on how terrorist cells and other criminal organizations are devising IEDs abroad, for example, so officers in the states can be aware and on the lookout for similar IEDs. “It’s really important for law enforcement to understand the current threats,” he said.

Officers also need to know what resources are available. For example, as officer do you know:

  • If your department has bomb-sniffing dogs? If so, how many? If not, where are the closest bomb-sniffing dogs?
  • What the capability is of your local/regional bomb squad?
  • If your department has conducted an IED search and evacuation training at your own location?

In addition to training police officers, it’s also important for agencies to make sure that local businesses receive IED awareness training. Public and private organizations need to be aware of the threat and know how to conduct their own searches, said Dawkins.

“The best people to search an office or floor are the people who work there,” he said. “They have to be aware of IEDs.” Businesses should know the basics of how to search for IEDs in their own locations and how to mark rooms that have been searched.

It’s important for police agencies to spearhead training other organizations about IED threats.

“People assume that private companies and public organizations like schools are ready for this kind of threat. They’re ready for fire and active shooters, but they’re not ready for the IED threat,” he said.

Dawkins cited an employee at a large hardware store who noticed that a customer kept coming in requesting to have pipes cut in 10- and 12-inch lengths. The employee recalled some of his Army training about pipe bombs and reported the customer to the police. As it turned out, the customer had ties to a terrorist cell.

To learn more about IED threats and response strategies, Dawkins will be the guest speaker during a live Webcast on Tuesday, May 22, 2012 from 11:00 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. ET. You can register for the event here.

In the Webcast, Improvised Explosive Device Countermeasures, Dawkins will provide guidance on a series of countermeasures such as first-response, planning, arrival on scene, situational awareness, threat assessment, and more.

You can also check out AMU’s visor cards for IED Countermeasures. It’s a good quick reference guide to responding to a possible IED threat.

~ Dr. Robert Dawkins is the Director of Education & Standards at A-T Solutions, Inc., an anti-counterterrorism training and consulting corporation. In his position, he conducts training sessions and presentations about IED awareness to law enforcement agencies as well as private businesses. Dawkins is also an associate professor with American Military University.

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