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Phoenix Police Bomb Squad discusses the realities and challenges of the job

Posted at 10:49 PM, Jan 12, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-13 00:49:52-05

Sane people run away from bombs, but a special group of ten people in the Valley walk towards that danger.

The Phoenix Police Department Bomb Squad is one of the most specialized units that most people know little about. After watching the bomb squad respond to a suspicious bag at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, ABC15 decided to meet the team and see what makes these specialized police officers tick. 

Hollywood paints them as adrenaline junkies. The Hollywood movie Hurt Locker shows Explosive Ordinance Disposal techs happily one heartbeat from an explosion. 

Real life Phoenix bomb techs, like Detective Troy Hill, are much more methodical.  

"I think we all really enjoy the work and the challenge behind it but I wouldn't say adrenaline junkie," said Detective Troy Hill, a former U.S. Air Force bomb dog handler. "It's a very dangerous job that we do in a very, extremely safe way."

The bomb squad's prime mission is a little different from normal police work: solving the crime always comes second to saving lives. 

Their last line of defense is the notorious green Kevlar bomb suit. 

"One of the inventors of it has basically blown himself up several times with no ill effects so you can take a pretty large hit with this," said Hill. 

But walking up to a possible bomb is the last resort. 

"If we can go remote, we go remote," said Hill. 

Phoenix has three bomb robots. Each is outfitted with several cameras and shotgun barrels to blast devices apart. Each robot also has an arm/claw apparatus for getting a close look at something dangerous from far away. X-ray even helps the bomb techs see inside a suspicious package before touching it at all. 

"I wouldn't say I've diffused an explosive device. We do get a lot of pipe bombs in the City of Phoenix," said Hill.  "We've had to blow up a few highly suspicious items."

Most suspicious bag calls, like the ones occasionally seen at Sky Harbor, end up with some absent-minded travelers clothes strewn about the terminal floor. 

But in the backs of their minds is always the possibility of something worse according to fellow Phoenix bomb tech, Detective Joe Oviatt.

"They could be targeting bomb techs at this point, which is usually one of our worst-case scenarios. Someone watching with a command receiver and they're going to set off the device when I get there," said Oviatt. 

Leaning over a possible bomb, they simply have to banish that fear. 

"The suit is too hot and too heavy that if I get distracted and I get lose momentum and waste energy somewhere I'm not going to get everything accomplished that I need to," said Oviatt. 

The Phoenix bomb squad has nine detectives, three bomb dogs, and a sergeant.