WHY JACKSON HAS A BOMB TEAM
When people hear the Jackson Police Department has a bomb squad they tend to ask something along the lines of: “Do we really have such a big problem with bombs in Jackson that we need a bomb team?” It’s a valid question that demonstrates a common lack of understanding that often plagues public safety entities. The public doesn’t always understand why we have the tools we do, how we use them, and why we do things the way we do. Unfortunately, some of the time, in the absence of information people will fill in what they don’t know with what they think, which isn’t always accurate.
So first, I'd like to explain, the bomb team isn't just a Police Department division. It's technically the Region 8 bomb team, and we actually have a response area that covers much of the far western end of Wyoming, spanning over parts of three counties. The bomb team is currently made up of one officer from the Jackson Police Department and two Teton County Sheriff’s Deputies. We also have two assistants from the Police Department. And in any serious case we can call upon our counterparts in the FBI, BAFTE, and military, to assist
Another misconception is that the only thing a bomb team does is disarm terrorist or criminally produced bombs; gratefully, that is the thing we do least often, and hopefully it stays that way.
In recent history, the bomb team has been called out to investigate suspicious items, and to dispose of hazardous explosive or incendiary materials. We've responded to an unexploded avalanche control round that was found on the slope of the west bank, some old explosives family members found in a barn after an elderly family member passed away, and a stand-off with police in another county where the suspect claimed to have a bomb. Every now and then we get called out on a suspicious item or package, just to make sure it is safe. And as you may have heard, just last week we responded to a report of 26 live hand grenades which were found in Teton County, south of Jackson (click here to read the Jackson Hole News & Guide article).
Other less exciting but still important call outs include nefarious bomb threats made to businesses and schools with the intent of causing a disruption in service. We are also called on to advise and teach companies and agencies how to mitigate, protect against, prepare for, and respond to bomb threats.
The Jackson Bomb Squad was formed in the months and years following 9/11. With the busiest airport in the state, a large annual influx of visitors from all around the world, and the safety of thousands of citizens in mind, local leaders determined it would be in the best interest of the community that local law enforcement agencies form a joint bomb squad. The funding for the bomb squad came from state, federal, and Homeland Security grants, and the TCSO Citizen’s Auxiliary.
Some people might argue we don't respond to enough of those calls to justify having a bomb team. But that logic doesn't really work; the Fire Department doesn’t fight four-alarm structure fires on a regular basis, so does that mean they shouldn’t have fire engines designed to fight large structure fires? Of course not, that’s ridiculous…we want the Fire Department to have the tools it needs to respond in case there is a structure fire. Ultimately, like most public safety organizations, it’s not about what you do on a daily basis, it’s about what you are capable and prepared to do when you are needed. Just like the fire department, we want the Police Department to have the tools it would need to respond to an active shooter or to a bomb threat.
And like any other public safety organization or division, the basic mission of the bomb team is to save lives, preserve property, and maintain the peace. As a division of law enforcement, the bomb team also has a responsibility to investigate any threatened or actual dangerous device in an effort to identify the maker and bring them to justice.
In short, we're here to keep you safe.