Vermont State Police Bomb Squad Robot
On a recent morning, two members of the Vermont State Police Bomb Squad stared intently at two screens inside their truck parked outside the Williston barracks, their hands pressing nobs and softly moving joysticks on the computer's operation board. The mission: retrieve a hat and gloves from a visiting photographer's camera bag using two of the squad's three robots. It was gentle work, as the robots arms carefully hovered over the bag, grabbed its zippers and prodded the bag. Within 10 minutes, the robots had successfully handed the items to the photographer. "Mission complete," said Sgt. Bill Sweeney, a member of the squad. "That wasn't even that hard." While this task was just to show what the robots can do, the nine-member Bomb Squad faces real situations where the machines are used, said Sgt. Paul Ravelin, another squad member. The robots were seen in action on Jan. 6 at the Federal Building on Elmwood Avenue in Burlington after a suspicious package was found at the post office. "It was an unknown to us," Ravelin said this week of the suspicious package. "We had information to believe that the package we were looking at had been moved by someone prior to us being there. Not knowing what it was we were approaching, we felt the best way to do it was to send a robot down and see what we would be dealing with." Each call for the Bomb Squad is different, and members typically initially assess whether the robots are needed. "We can put a robot downrange, instead of having human beings exposed to an unknown threat," Ravelin said. "We can do everything a human can do, but we can actually do it robotically." The squad uses three robots that are different sizes: a large robot that weighs about 500 pounds, a medium robot which weighs 125 pounds, and a small "point-man" robot weighs about 15 pounds and stands about one foot off the ground. Vermont State Police used funding from U.S. Homeland Security for the robots, Ravelin said. The largest robot cost $140,000, the medium robot was about $150,000, and the smallest robot cost about $25,000. The middle robot is the newest, purchased about a year-and-a-half ago, Ravelin said. The two larger robots have arms that can grab objects, and the smaller robot is used for reconnaissance. The largest robot, which is 14 years old and made of steel and aluminum, can also drag up objects up to 600 pounds. "A bomb tech in a suit weighs up to 300 pounds on average, so if a bomb tech goes down, we can use the robot to go down and pull that tech into safety," Ravelin said. The largest robot also allows for two-way communication: members of the bomb squad speak from a walkie talkie inside the squad truck, and those in the field can speak back through a speaker on the bot. Ravelin said the two-way communication could come in handy during a hostage situation when other attempts by crisis negotiators to contact a subject are unsuccessful. The robots have yet to be used for that purpose, but Bomb Squad members have trained for that possibility, he said. The Bomb Squad trains at least three times per year, sometimes alongside members of the Vermont Air National Guard, Ravelin said. The nine-member Bomb Squad team responds to about 25 to 50 calls per year throughout the state, according to the Vermont State Police website."If we can minimize the amount of time that we're actually standing over an IED, that's better for us in the long run," Ravelin said. "And if we're utilizing the robot to do that, and that's the better option, we'll take that opportunity every time."
MA State Trooper Helped Deliver a Baby
A State Police trooper pulled over on the Massachusetts Turnpike in Blandford Saturday morning to help what he thought was a driver and a disabled car. Instead the trooper ended up helping deliver a baby. Trooper Carlos Nunez saw the car in the breakdown lane of the highway around 1:30 a.m. He soon learned a woman inside the car was in labor. "Trooper Nunez immediately requested an ambulance, but after an on-scene medical assessment, he determined that a delivery was imminent," State Police said. "Trooper Nunez made preparations for the delivery and, a short time later, the woman gave birth in the vehicle." The trooper provided care to the mother and newborn until Westfield EMS arrived. The mother and child were transported to Baystate Medical Center in Springfield.
Troopers Work Security in Washington During Inauguration
A group of local Utah Highway Patrol troopers were part of a 40 member squad sent to Washington, D.C. this week, to provide security during the inauguration events for President Donald Trump. Trooper Phil Rawlinson was one of four men, chosen from Section 1 that covers Cache, Rich and Box Elder counties. He, Sgt. Jason Kendrick and troopers, Josh Preece and Jason Jensen were selected last year, before Trump was even elected. Rawlinson said they were flown to Washington Wednesday so they could have a day for orientation. On Thursday, they met with Utah Governor Gary Herbert and received training from the D.C. Metro Police Department. “We were sworn in as U.S. Marshals just for the event,” explained Rawlinson. “When the inauguration parade was over the swearing-in, deputization expired. That was a once in a lifetime opportunity.” The troopers woke up at 2 a.m. Friday so they could be to their post by 5 a.m. They, along with the other troopers from Utah and Colorado, were stationed on a side street off Pennsylvania Ave., about 200 yds. from the east-side of the White House. Rawlinson said they could hear on their radios about the protests that were happening in nearby areas. Most of the people around them though were peaceful and expressed appreciation for them being there. “There were a few protesters and things that we did see, carrying signs and chanting, but we had more people than we could count come up to us and say 'thanks for being here, we are so glad you are here.' Some would say, 'Oh you're from Utah,' and they would have some tie to the state. They would tell us they had been to Park City skiing or another man said he went to Alta High School. “They were pretty happy to see the Beehive and thanked us for being there. They were happy that there was a big showing of law enforcement because they felt safe while they were there.” All together, more than 3,200 troopers, officers, and deputies from around the United States helped with security. Rawlinson said it was special for him to be with other law enforcement members from around the country. “I have never been to Washington D.C. and so I think being part of history and being with other police officers was something pretty neat. The troopers remained at their posts for thirteen-and-half-hours Friday, until the parade and festivities were over around 6 p.m. Rawlinson said even though it was a long day, it was a once in a lifetime experience that he's glad he got to do. “It was a pretty neat opportunity for all of us to be able to come and be a part of it. To be here as a police officer and wear the Utah Highway Patrol uniform here in Washington D.C. is pretty cool." The troopers flew back to Utah on Saturday.
Georgia State Patrol to Help with Inaugural Security
Dozens of Georgia state troopers are in Washington this week to help with security at the inauguration of Donald Trump as president. The Department of Public Safety on Thursday posted a series of photos to social media accounts showing members of the State Patrol in the nation’s capitol preparing for Friday’s swearing-in. The troopers were sworn in as temporary deputy U.S. marshal’s. Many states send law enforcement officers to major national events to help with security. Several Georgia units were in Cleveland and Philadelphia this summer for the Republican and Democratic national conventions.