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U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Community Oriented Policing Services
The COPS Office is pleased to feature the Orange County (CA) Sheriff’s Department as the October 2018 winner of the Community Policing in Action Photo Contest. The winning photo features Deputy Andre Raglin interacting with a student while volunteering at an event for the Blind Children’s Learning Center in Orange County, California.
Orange County is located in sunny Southern California, where it borders 40 miles of Pacific Ocean coastline. The region is south of Los Angeles and north of San Diego, and it is sixth most populous county in the nation with 34 cities containing over 3 million people. The Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD) helps to maintain the public safety of this dense region with its 21 separate divisions that collectively provide comprehensive law enforcement services to the area.
Within the OCSD’s Homeland Security Division is the Hazardous Devices Section, or more popularly known as the OCSD Bomb Squad. This police unit is made up of 18 members, aided by eight K-9s, who are all classified as Certified Bomb Disposal Technicians by the FBI Bomb Data Center. These officers are responsible for the immediate response of explosive-related incidents in all of the county’s government jurisdictions.
The small but mighty team has a vast area to cover, especially considering the unit “has one of the top ten call volumes for explosives in the nation.” Deputy Andre Raglin says, “[the different calls] give us the opportunity to go to different cities all over the place, so it is fun,” but at the same time, “being a bomb tech, it is a challenge everyday – you never know what you are going to get.”
The officers are constantly on the move: conducting random sweeps in patrol areas and for special large-scale events, responding to service calls, and participating in training exercises with the squad, local law enforcement and other OCSD divisions. The unit also provides demonstrations, orientations or briefings for organizations and the community.
The bomb squad hosts and partakes in these events to help to create awareness about the unit’s role in the community and to further public safety awareness initiatives. For example, nearly every month Deputy Raglin and the unit have orientations for the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) “to explain [to the new hires] what to expect when they see us walking around with bomb tech on our backs, vests and our dogs.” These types of orientations help to ensure that the squad’s surveillance of patrol areas is streamlined, effective and safe.
The OCSD Bomb Squad not only hold official briefings or orientations, but the team also volunteers at schools, youth events and community activities. For events such as National Night Out, the squad brings the “big bomb trucks, robots, bomb dogs, replica explosives, grenades, and artillery shells,” which are popular among those young and old throughout the community. These displays of hazardous items, and activities such as fireworks demonstrations, act as cautionary tales that help residents learn about explosive-related incidents and related safety protocols.
For the past three years, the Bomb Squad has had the unique opportunity to give back to the community through volunteering at the Blind Children’s Learning Center’s annual Easter Egg Hunt. The squad plays a special role in this event as they are in charge of piecing together interactive eggs with speakers, buzzers, and on and off switches. These “beeping eggs” are hidden for the visually impaired children to locate and to practice their motor skills.
In the winning photo contest image, Deputy Raglin is seen showing a young student the inner workings of a discovered egg. “These kids are amazing. They have no sight, but [the students] can hear the eggs and are picking up [as many as they can] while moving around the entire playground,” Deputy Raglin said. “We are re-hiding them just as fast as they can find them! It is pure adrenaline and excitement as [the kids] are running and finding them.” The event is a great success each year; it allows the children, their parents and community members to interact with the officers and K-9s in a relaxed environment, while also participating in an Easter holiday ritual that, otherwise, the children may not have had the opportunity due to their disabilities.
Besides volunteer events and orientations, the OCSD Bomb Squad also finds a way to connect with the Orange County community through the use of social media. The unit keeps followers informed about trainings, explosive-related incidents and service calls where hazardous items were detected, turned in or found. These posts are useful learning tools as the squad provides information and reminders about safety protocols for hazardous devices and issues.
Social media can also be useful in helping others identify what could be a dangerous weapon in their own home or neighborhood. For example, a post about an artillery round led a woman to realize that she had the same item from her father after he passed away. “She had a military ordnance in her house and didn’t even know it!” Deputy Raglin recalled.
These various outlets that the OCSD Bomb Squad uses to keep the community as informed as possible makes an impact not only on the public safety of the community but also on the squad’s ability to do its job. The community of Orange County is able to learn about the dangers and safety protocols surrounding explosive-related incidents, which in turn aids the section with successfully carrying out its duties in a safe and effective manner.
The COPS Office congratulates the Orange County Sheriff’s Department for being one of the 12 winners of the COPS Office 2018 Community Policing in Action Photo Contest and for its commitment to community policing.
Written with contributions from Orange County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Andre Raglin. Photo courtesy of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
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