“Bomb Technical Investigation Officer” and “Bomb Scene Manager” aren’t exactly common job titles, but these roles are vital in processing a blast scene!
By: Christabelle Lim
Police Life caught up with two officers who participated in Exercise Solar Wind V to hear about their experiences and the lessons they took away from this bilateral exercise with the Royal Brunei Police Force (RBPF)!
Eric Mok is a Bomb Technical Investigation Officer with the Forensic Division of the Home Team Science and Technology Agency (HTX). Currently, he’s forward-deployed with the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Singapore Police Force (SPF).
Eric may be new to the SPF, with one year in service, but he’s no newbie when it comes to bombs and explosives. Eric was previously in the Singapore Armed Forces and trained in Explosives Ordnance Disposal. During the Solar Wind V exercise in Brunei in November 2022, he was one of the officers tasked to create a realistic bomb blast scene!
Recreating Realistic Post-blast Scenes
As the exercise conducting officer, Eric’s role was to construct and replicate Improvised Explosive Device (IED) components used in actual cases. The aim was to have as realistic a post-blast scene as possible to help exercise participants optimise their learning and insights.
When an IED detonates, the effect can be devastating. It’s up to the post-blast investigators to try to piece together what happened. How the metal is bent, how the wood fractures, the melted plastic and the fragments of bone and body that are left – these are all tiny puzzle pieces to fit into a larger puzzle.
A Mentor to Others
As a Bomb Technical Investigation Officer, Eric works closely with investigators who process the scene and collect evidence. His technical expertise helps them when it comes to identifying fragments and components that come from an IED, deducing the IED used and, from there, reconstructing the crime scene.
According to Eric, it takes a keen investigative mind to conduct post-blast investigations. “You need to question a perpetrator’s motivations and understanding his IED capabilities,” he says. “You also need to have strong technical knowledge of electronics, explosives and material sciences.”
For Eric, what was most important about Exercise Solar Wind V was that the investigators could witness a blast and its aftermath first-hand, in order to sharpen their skills and reinforce their technical training. “There’s no way to describe what happens after a blast,” he shares. “They need to experience it.”
Making Sense of It All
The complexity of a post-blast scene, combined with environmental factors like heat and the need to ensure safety, poses many challenges to officers. A good Bomb Scene Manager assesses the scene quickly and deploys resources strategically to ensure the efficient and effective processing of the scene.
That’s what Mohamed Amir Bin Mohamed Arshad does. The Officer-in-Charge of the Forensic Management Branch, Forensics Division, of HTX, Amir is also forward-deployed to the CID. Having started as a crime scene forensic officer 10 years ago in the SPF, Exercise Solar Wind V was an eye-opener for him.
“It was my first time participating in an overseas exercise; previously, I’d only been involved in local exercises and training,” explained Amir. “Solar Wind V definitely boosted my confidence in managing a large group of officers in a complex incident.”
Fast and Clear
During the exercise, around 40 officers were working on the scene in different roles at any one time. As the Bomb Scene Manager, Amir had to think on his feet and give clear instructions to his team. For Amir, teamwork and the new friendships that he forged with fellow officers from the RBPF were key to helping him coordinate post-blast investigations effectively.
“There’ll be uncertainties on the ground, so we need to make the best decisions possible in a short amount of time,” he shared. “Being able to strategise clearly with the available information, exercise critical thinking, give clear instructions and adjust our plans when new information comes in – all of these are required of a Bomb Scene Manager.”