Cleveland PD using other agencies to help depleted bomb squad

Most of Cleveland's bomb squad resigned in February after officers accused a supervisor of bringing a live pipe bomb to training


By Adam Ferrise
cleveland.com

CLEVELAND — Cleveland police officials on Wednesday said they are using federal and local police agencies to beef up staffing after most members of the city’s bomb squad resigned in recent weeks.

Cleveland Police Deputy Chief Herold Pretel said members of the FBI, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and officers from two regional police task forces — the Southeast Enforcement Bureau and Westshore Enforcement Bureau — will shore up the loss of six bomb squad officers who resigned in late February.

Adam Ferrise

The Cleveland officers cited safety concerns with their new supervisor in their letters asking off the specialized unit. They said they would return to the unit if the supervisor was removed.

Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association President Jeff Follmer previously said officers were especially incensed after a Jan. 5 training exercise at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport during which the officers accused the supervisor of using a live explosive.

Three officers remain in the unit. Pretel said those officers will work with officers and agents from outside agencies for Thursday’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which typically draws tens of thousands of people to downtown Cleveland.

“It’s arguably one of the biggest events in the state,” Pretel said, later adding: “It’s like a Browns game on steroids.”

Pretel’s comments were made during a safety briefing ahead of the parade and mark the first time police acknowledged a plan for the bomb squad moving forward. Police officials previously declined to comment on the future of the unit, saying they would not comment because it divulged “tactical information.”

[RELATED: Report: LAPD bomb tech warned against fireworks disposal plan before blast]

Pretel said the department is working on a permanent solution to the lack of a fully-staffed bomb squad, but he said it would take a few months to implement.

Pretel said several officers have asked to replace the outgoing officers. Follmer previously asked that no other officer apply for the position. Bomb squad officers work other assignments, but are on-call to respond when needed.

Pretel said there are no plans to remove the supervisor. He said the Inspections Unit investigation so far has turned up no wrongdoing by the supervisor. But police officials have added an extra supervisory position to the unit and are currently soliciting sergeants to apply.

Cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer reached out to Follmer for comment.

New members will need specialized training, which could take several months, but Pretel said the FBI has paved the way for a higher than normal number of Cleveland police officers to get trained this year in order to expedite the process.

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McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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