Fake Threats, Real Stress: The Toll on Local Law Enforcement

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by Morgan Fogarty
Bio | Email | Follow: @morganfogarty by Photographer Adam Stevens

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - A scary, stressful stretch of days started April 23; 2 bomb threats at Hough High School.  The 29th, another threat.  The 30th, a note scrawled in the bathroom.  May 2nd, a bomb threat at Holbrook Middle School in Gaston County.  The 3rd, another bomb threat in Gaston county, this one at Lowell Elementary School.  On the same day in Fort Mill, Nation Ford High School locks down because of a threat posted on social media.  A gun was also found in a student's backpack at Ashley Park Elementary school in Charlotte on May 3rd, which required police response and a lockdown.  

"It's not typical we have this many events in such a short period of time," says Captain Steve Brochu.  He heads up CMPD's Special Ops unit, including the bomb squad.  The 12 man team responded to the suspicious package threats at Hough High.  They used a small charge to tear open one package.  That experience helped them determine the second one wasn't explosive.

Brochu says, "We treat everything as if it's real 'til we can completely confirm it's known to us as not being hazardous."

The bomb squad works alongside other police required for sweeps, security, traffic control and containment, plus the fire department's HAZMAT team.  Bomb threats are consuming - and costly.  Brochu says, "It can add to thousands (of dollars) in time frame, certainly staffing."

The Hough High bomb threats turned out to be hoaxes but the stress felt by the bomb squad is real.  "The stress of actually getting in the suit, of building the explosives in order to disrupt or render safe either hoax or live devices, it really taxes the team and puts a lot of pressure on them to act and concentrate," says Brochu.

The bomb squad often has to build bombs to destroy other bombs, which is a danger in itself.  There's no rest for the weary. CMPD's squad participates in special training three days every month.  This month's training is this week, despite coming off an exhausting stretch of days.

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