BPD officers give BC club a demonstration


Marcus Castro

Police Officer Craig Trefz shows the BC Criminology Club the bomb squad's robot

Mason J. Rockfellow, Reporter

Bakersfield College’s Criminology Club and adviser Patricia Smith were given demonstrations by two bomb squad officers and their bomb robot and a K-9 officer and his partner, a Belgian Malinois, on March 13 at the Bakersfield Police Department in downtown Bakersfield.

The club was greeted by police community relations specialist Edwina Tripp and was brought into the back lot where all the police vehicles are kept along with a fueling station for the demonstrations.

The first demonstration was with Police Detective Justin Lewis and Police Officer Craig Trefz and their bomb robot.

They first talked about some things that the robot could do and why it is so useful to the bomb squad. For instance, it keeps them from having a person have to go take a look at the bomb or suspicious package. The bomb squad gets about 40-50 calls a year with 30-40 percent of the calls are usually calls about a suspicious package, left backpack in a crowded public place, etc.

The robot has three cameras; two located on two of the robot’s “arms” and one at the top of the robot, as if it was the robot’s head. From these cameras the bomb squad can see exactly what the robot is doing and how to maneuver it accordingly. The camera on top can be extended up and down, as well as rotate 360 degrees. This allows the bomb squad to be able to get a better view of something or even look into windows or spots where bombs might be. The robot has two arms one that helps with the picking up and one that can help in the disarming of bombs and explosives, but the robot is not just limited to that. The robot has a variety of attachments that can be attached, such as a semi-automatic rifle. The robot is remote controlled from a control box located on the inside of the truck, along with a monitor showing the views from the cameras. The control box can be detached and taken to another location if necessary. In a matter of moving around the robot has two wheels on each side and caterpillar tracks located on the inside of each side of the wheels that move inward and outward to lift the robot up and down so that it can maneuver accordingly for the terrain.

The bomb suits are made with Kevlar, armored plates and other synthetic materials. The suits and helmets are made so that if an explosion occurs the blast goes around them and not into them.

Then Lewis and Trefz explained how you don’t just become part of the force and get to be on the bomb squad, there is a lot of training that comes with it. Officer Trefz gave a good example by using himself and explained that he has been with the department for almost a decade and that he did not start out on the bomb squad. Detective Lewis explained that to be considered for bomb squad training, you first have to pass a physical agility test, written test, and go through an oral evaluation. Once accepted, you then go through six-weeks of training in Alabama and once back from there you still are pretty much always going to be training due to technology and the fact that bombs are being made differently all the time.

“You will probably never learn everything you need to know…all we do is train,” said Lewis.

The next demonstration was with senior Police Officer Chris Dalton and his partner Bronx, a Belgian Malinois. Dalton explained that Belgian Malinois are the dogs that have been being filtered through the K-9 units instead of German Shepherds due to shepherds having hip problems and other health issues.

“Shepherds are kind of being phased out,” said Dalton.

There are 13 dogs that work for the Bakersfield Police Department and one is always on duty no matter what time of the day. There are three pure narcotic trained dogs, 10 dogs are dual-purpose dogs, which means they have two jobs. Out of the 10, two are bomb and patrol trained and eight who are patrol and narcotic trained. Dalton explained how the dogs are trained to be extremely obedient and alert. Dalton went on to show the club how Bronx always stays on his left side no matter what, will only bite or act upon commands when told, Bronx not only listens to voice commands in English but also knows commands in French, as well as physical commands.

The dogs are trained to attack the arms and legs, but dogs will go for the body part that is exerting the most body odor explained Dalton. Dalton then stated that even though the dog is trained to attack on command that they are not as viscous as they may seem and are not trained to be mean.

“They think they are playing…he looks at an arm like a tennis ball,” said Dalton. “He could bite a bad guy and then I could pull him off and let the bad guy pet him…I have never tried that though.”

Dalton explained that they are not much different than your dogs at home, except the hours and hours of one-on-one training that the handler and dog have gone through.

He explained that even being in contact and training with a dog so much it still takes about a year or two to completely gain the dog’s trust.

Once an officer gets a dog, the dog from there on out is with the officer 24/7 and even goes home with the officer at night.

Even after the dog is trained, the officer then trains with the dog for about one hour out of every shift that the officer works.

Dalton explained how dogs are an important part of the Police Department because they can do things that humans cannot. For instance, he told a story about how Bronx found a bad guy in a bush that the bad guy was hiding in, while other officers had walked by the bush and wouldn’t have ever known the bad guy was there. Bronx can climb ladders, sniff out cocaine, and can run up to 25 to 35 mph.

“No human stands a chance,” said Dalton.

Dalton also brought up the fact that since dogs have been implemented in the ’50s that only one person has died from being attacked by a police dog, though Tasers have claimed a couple of thousand lives and weren’t implemented until the ’90s.

After a dog gets old and can’t work for the Police Department anymore, the handlers are given the opportunity to buy the dog from the department for one dollar. There have been 35 dogs that have worked for the Bakersfield Police Department and every handler has paid the one-dollar to take their dog home, explained Dalton.

“The most loyal partner I have had in my life,” said Dalton.

The Criminology Club meets on the second Friday of every month. Smith plans on going to other law enforcement facilities such as the juvenile center and the CHP station. Smith believes that the students should get a chance to get out of the classroom, meet law enforcement workers, get an idea of what jobs are out there in the field of criminology, and the type of requirements necessary for certain positions.