CAMP MINDEN, LA (KSLA) - Local and state law enforcement officers are getting four days of hands-on explosives training , courtesy of the Shreveport Field Office of The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
From the very basic but effective black powder to the array of explosives available for commercial use, it was an explosive show and tell on Tuesday. Agents demonstrated their blasting power in a series of controlled detonations in an open field at Camp Minden as a few dozen 'students' looked on.
In this outdoor classroom, the students are officers representing local police and sheriff's departments, as well as Louisiana State Police. They're getting a first-hand feel for the kinds of explosive devices they could run into on the job. "Local law enforcement needs to aware of the dangers that are out there when it comes to improvised explosive devices," explains Shreveport ATF Special Agent Joe Mann, who is also a Certified Explosives Specialist.
The Shreveport office of the ATF's Resident Agent in Charge, Wade Rasberry says that even though calls often turn out to be hoaxes or suspicious-looking but innocent, it's critical that officers be trained to respond. "We found hand grenades in Bossier City, we have had bombs in Union Parish, we have had a number of different things that you come across. We have instances where hoax devices that were placed at some of the credit unions here in Shreveport and Bossier. You have to treat those just - because you've seen the destructive device - you have to treat that as if it is the real thing."
Officers are also learning how collect evidence for use in prosecuting explosives-related cases. Agent Mann says that's why they invited local prosecutors to observe the training as well, "So that they could understand everything that goes on with explosives, so that if they do have a defendant that comes to court, they have a better idea of how explosives work, the different types of effects, they have a better working knowledge."
Caddo DA Charles Scott took the ATF up on that invitation, and was impressed with the demonstration. "It is key and important to have experts, and accessibility to experts in these explosives so they can tell that this evidence piece is part of an explosive device for example rather than part of a vehicle or part of a building or something."
On Wednesday, the ATF will be blowing up cars donated by a local salvage yard, so the officers can learn how to piece a scene back together and determine what kinds of explosives were used.