The Bentonville Bomb Squad Uses New Technology

BENTONVILLE, Ark. - - Cell phones have replaced pay phones.

Computers have replaced typewriters.

We could go on, but it's 2017, and technology has impacted just about every aspect of our lives.

Law enforcement agencies are now using everything from drones to robots.

For one Northwest Arkansas bomb squad, it's all in when it comes to investing in potentially live saving devices.

"You can get the reading or whatever it is in a particular environment without having to put a body down in the hot zone," Michael Meadors, Bentonville Bomb Squad Commander said. 

It looks like something straight out the Pixar movie, Wall-E.
 
"Back in the day they would teach us how to do everything in a bomb suit but if you can try to deploy the robot," Meadors said.
 
A 900 pound robot in most cases, this hunk of metal, can take the place of a bomb squad member getting sent in an 80 pound suit into a possible deadly situation.
 
"We can handle most situations with a robot if we can't us a robot then its back to the basics of us putting on a bomb suit," Meadors said. 
 
For almost two decades, Michael Meadors has worked with what used to be the Springdale Bomb Squad, now under the Bentonville Police Department.
 
BPD's Bomb Squad is one of six in the state, and has three of the 15 bomb robots Meadors tells us you can find in Arkansas.
 
Those bots on four wheels cover a lot of ground, rendering mutual aid in over 17 counties, both in and out of The Natural State.
 
"I could get a phone call right now and we could head to Missouri and help them out with something or Harrison, Arkansas," Meadors said. 
 
Each robot costs upwards of $200,000, all funded through homeland security grants.
 
"If Rogers Police Department calls and says hey this is what we got can you guys come out with your robot and help us out absolutely," Meadors said. "So it's just more of agencies helping each other to try to get whatever job it is get done."
 
Every one of these robots is different for instance the one you see right here has four different cameras so it can be the eyes and ears of the department.
 
Meadors says the robots have hundreds of capabilities, from gripping onto a suspect, to climbing up stairs and serving as a two way communication device in a stand-off situation.
 
BPD Public Information Officer, Gene Page says the squad gets called at least three to five times per month, and the robotic technology is deployed a majority of the time. 
 
"Our bomb squad covers 17 counties and is the busiest bomb squad in the state," Page said. 
 
"All of Northwest Arkansas has become really dependent on our bomb squad," Page said. "So the University of Arkansas whether it's Razorback games or some of our larger events which are just about every weekend we are utilizing our bomb team all over." 
 
The robots can range in size and capabilities depending on what the situation is.
 
Meadors, the squad commander, can manipulate the robot wirelessly from just about anywhere with the help of this controller for hours.
 
Although these robots take a lot of upkeep, and may not be invisible, Meadors says he would rather send a robot into the "hot zone" than a bomb squad member.
 
"We would rather have this thing get destroyed than a human being," Meadors said.
 
The Bentonville Bomb Squad was recently approved for a new robot that should arrive within the next six-months. 
 
Bentonville will be one of two bomb squads in the country with the new technology.
 

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