LAPD competes in Robot Rodeo

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By Tris DeRoma

Even though the title has as the word “rodeo” in it, it was all business at the 2014 Western National Robot Rodeo.
The event took place June 23-27 inside the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Technical Area 49.
This year, five bomb squads from New Mexico and their bomb-diffusing robots participated, as well as two teams from Colorado and one team from the United Kingdom.
New Mexico teams included the Los Alamos Police Department, the Albuquerque Police Department, The New Mexico State Police, Kirtland Air Force Base and the Doña Ana County Sheriff’s office.
Out-of-state and international teams included bomb squads from the 748th Ordinance Company from Ft. Collins Colo., a regional team from Colo. and a team from the British Army.
During the weeklong event, the teams competed in different types of scenarios they were likely to come across in the performance of their regular duties.
Exercises included diffusing of IEDs, (improvised explosive devices), car bombs, navigating obstacle courses, and operating in darkened buildings.
The Los Alamos Police Department, for example, was involved in a scenario that involved assisting the U.S. Border Patrol. The operation included deploying two of its robots to examine a suspicious package found in the trunk of a car that two suspects recently fled.
Though he couldn’t give too much away, LAPD Cpl. Preston Ballew said their mission was pretty straightforward.
“We identify what the threat is and then devise a plan to render that object safe depending on what we locate and see,” he said.
Chris Ory, a member of LANL’s Emergency Response Group as well as the lab’s hazardous devices team, said the LAPD frequently takes the lead on incidents that happen around town and on lab property.
“We may go out on the first part of the call, and if we find out it’s something other than an empty box we call them because they have law enforcement jurisdiction,” he said. “When they show up we work together deal with the item, whatever it is.”
In this year’s competition, the Colorado Regional Team finished first, the team from the United Kingdom finished second and the the Albuquerque Police Department finished third.
According to LANL spokesman Steve Sandoval, however, everybody that participates in the rodeo is a winner.
“The laboratory’s Technical Area 49 is the ideal venue for bomb squad teams to practice their response skills in timed, competitive scenarios,” he said. “Participants also have the opportunity to network with their contemporaries, learn new skills and acquire up-to-date knowledge of the latest tools and resources available to help them perform the important services they provide.”