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In the News

EPD Bomb Squad and officers honored

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Published by El Dorado News Times

EL DORADO — Administrative Captain Michael Leveritt, who has overseen plenty of bomb-related cases, is not unfamiliar to adversity. In Union County, he said he has seen people create pipe bombs, remote-controlled car bombs and mercury bombs, to name a few.

Essentially, “we’re fortunate to have a bomb squad,” for South Arkansas, Leveritt said.

Leveritt spoke to the Kiwanis Club on Wednesday at First Presbyterian Church about the city’s bomb squad and it’s importance to the state of Arkansas and surrounding areas. Also, five police officers were honored for their services by the El Dorado Kiwanis Club.

Officer of the Month awards were given to Detective Angela K. Means for November 2016; and Officer Anthony B. Ross for December 2016. The Officer of the Year award for 2016 was given to Officer Jonathan R. Love; Supervisor of the Year for 2016 was Sergeant Scott W. Amspaugh; and Investigator of the Year for 2016 was Detective Marcus R. Landers.

Implemented after the events of September 11, 2001, the El Dorado Police Department sought out creating a bomb squad and applied for funding from Homeland Security grants. In 2004, the department earned $1.2 million for purchasing necessary equipment.

Many of the tools used by the bomb squad are no different from the tools used in larger cities, including Los Angeles and New York Police departments, Leveritt said.

The El Dorado Police Department has acquired “10-foot long trucks, two service vehicles and over $2 million worth of equipment,” he said.

Leveritt said there are six bomb squads in the state of Arkansas, and the squad at the El Dorado Police Department has coverage spanning all of Union County and have helped cases in Louisiana, Texas, and Oklahoma. Also, the department has helped the other five bomb squads in Arkansas by sharing equipment or assisting reported crimes.

Comparing reports in northwest Arkansas and Little Rock to Union County’s, “our calls aren’t great but we do stay busy,” Leveritt said.

In 2016, about 240 bomb-related incidents were reported in the state, and a 42 percent increase in statewide squad assists from the year before, he said.

He showcased a couple of tools used in the field, including an x-ray gun and iPad system that can reveal when a bomb is inside any bag or container. Simply, Leveritt pointed the x-ray gun about two feet away from the iPad screen. Similar to security screening at the airport, “in 15 seconds, you have an image of what is inside the bag,” he said.

Also, the bomb squad has used robots for neutralizing bomb threats without harming police officers. Smaller robots cost roughly $120,000 and larger robots are $300,000 with a five-year warranty, Leveritt said.

Fortunately, the El Dorado Police Department has been able to earn most of their funds through Homeland Security grants, to the point where they use “probably less than one percent of what’s available” from city funds, he said.

Nathan Owens is a staff writer for the El Dorado News-Times and can be contacted via email: nowens@eldoradonews.com