Jodie Pearson is Australia’s first female police bomb technician. Picture: Lincoln Baker/The West Australian
Jodie Pearson is Australia’s first female police bomb technician. Picture: Lincoln Baker/The West Australian

Inside the bomb-making school for cops

It is a bomb-making school aimed at building the latest, deadliest explosives - but the students are not terrorists, they are police.

They have built everything from a collar bomb to a pressure cooker bombs and explosives used in car bombs.

Whenever a bomb goes off somewhere in the world, they put their skills to the test, building a replica and then learning how to safely defuse or detonate them.

Bomb experts like Jodie Pearson, Australia's first female police bomb technician, and her bomb squad colleagues spend their time - when not investigating a crime scene - recreating one and then upskilling on how to gather vital evidence amid the devastation to help catch the culprits.

 

Inspector Pearson said global terrorism events, such as the Boston marathon bombings and the bizarre collar bomb case in the US, were significant learning curves for bomb squads in Australia.

"All that kind of technology and that information is migratory," she said.

"But things of significance like the Boston Marathon bombs… is a skill set that we didn't have in our own bomb squad.

"So we would religiously study world events and we would share information with all the other jurisdictions. And we would try and replicate those devices and develop our own render safe techniques. And if we had something successful, then we would kick it out to the rest of the jurisdictions and vice versa."

 

Listen to the podcast for Police Tape Blue Sirens below:

 

 

 

Inspector Pearson has spoken out about her experiences as a bomb squad technician dismantling booby traps and bombs in the second instalment of the successful True Crime Australia podcast Police Tape: Blue Sirens.

Police Tape Blue Sirens includes interviews with policewomen around the country at the peak of their careers, including detectives who worked on Melbourne's gangland murders, the female cop referred to as "the gang buster", a Deputy Police Commissioner and an FBI-trained criminal profiler.

Inspector Pearson, a recipient of the Australian Police Medal and the prestigious Bev Lawson Memorial Award recognising women who have been first in a law enforcement activity, was among the best in Australia.

 

Jodie Pearson was Australia’s first female police bomb technician. Picture: Lincoln Baker/The West Australian.
Jodie Pearson was Australia’s first female police bomb technician. Picture: Lincoln Baker/The West Australian.

 

 

Inspector Pearson said her world and that of all law enforcement bomb squads changed forever after the September 11 attacks.

Just a week before the attacks, Jodie attended the scene of the first remotely controlled car bomb attack on a former police officer.

Former top WA cop Don Hancock was murdered with his friend, racing identity Lou Lewis as they returned home from a day at the races.

The killer had been lying in wait and when they turned into Mr Hancock's street, the killer detonated the bomb.

"It was called a command initiated device … It was detonated remotely - so that was the first time we had seen that and remember this was prior to September 11, which is when our world changed forever."

 

She was on call that night and she had to go and clear the bomb scene, collect evidence and make sure it was safe for homicide investigators to enter the area.

"It was nerve-racking, but it was kind of surreal and exciting," she said.

Inspector Pearson had longed to be a bomb technician since she joined the Tactical Response Group with WA Police.

 

This chilling image shows a pressure cooker bomber.
This chilling image shows a pressure cooker bomber.

 

When she finally got the opportunity she thought it would be as easy as putting in an application and getting selected.

"But then came the conversation about - there has never been a female before - "it's all men, where are you going to sleep?'

"Things that I would think, why is that even a factor? And others like "if you are not successful it's going to be embarrassing."

"So I thought I am willing to take that chance."

Inspector Pearson also describes what it is like spending hours in 45kg ballistic-plated suit and helmet, which limits air and vision - as portrayed in the award-winning film The Hurt Locker.

Her former boss, Senior Sergeant Bill Collidge, has said she was one of the top 10 police bomb experts in the country.

She has now been promoted to the position of Staff Officer to the WA Deputy Police Commissioner Col Blanch.

To read more, go to truecrimeaustralia.com.au; to listen, go to Police Tape Blue Sirens - wherever you get your podcasts.

 

 

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