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Intense bomb-squad practice pays off for Barrie constable

Though the Anne St. explosion was the first time a Barrie officer wore his 80-pound bomb suit outside of training, the use of actual explosives in exercises helped prepare him and others for the scenario

Barrie police Const. Kevin Barkley, donned in a heavy, green armoured suit that covers him from head to toe, uses long-handled forceps to nudge debris on the pavement at a parking lot at 108 Anne St. N. near Edgehill Drive.

He is slow and careful as he looks over the remains of an improvised explosive device (IED) that was intentionally detonated by police using a remote-operated robot an hour prior to Barkley moving in to inspect the scene.

After receiving calls from area residents about an explosion at 2:56 a.m Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023, officers cordoned the area around the foot of the Anne Street hill near the bridge over Highway 400.

About 20 people living in two nearby apartment buildings were evacuated earlier that morning.

It took around an hour for Barkley to sweep the area and visually clear under and in all the vehicles located in the parking lot to determine that it was safe to then use a bomb-sniffing police dog to further inspect the area for remnants of the explosive or any other devices that may have been hidden from view of the officers.

Const. Barkley, who has been in the Explosive Disposal Unit (EDU) since 2020 and is currently functioning as the unit coordinator, has attended multiple explosives calls since being in the Barrie unit, which have ranged from found explosives discarded in the local landfill, to the manufacturing of explosives in residences.

“The incident on Anne Street was the first time I was required to wear the suit operationally since I entered the unit,” he tells BarrieToday. “That day I was in the suit for approximately an hour and ten minutes. Due to the temperatures that day, and lack of shade in the area, it was quite taxing." 

The bomb suit used in his unit is called the EOD 9, and weighs approximately 80 pounds. 

“Unsurprisingly the suit is about as hot as wearing a heavy snowmobile suit in the middle of summer, with little to no ventilation other than a small fan in the helmet to reduce fogging of the shield,” adds Barkley, “Fortunately, we often do not have to wear this suit operationally for extended periods of time.”

His role in the bomb suit is to do what they are unable to do with their robots, confirm disruption of the explosive device and locate components of the device. 

There are currently four officers who are assigned to the EDU in Barrie.

The four members of the unit are spread out in a variety of positions within the Barrie Police Service, such as K-9, Uniform Patrol, and the Tactical Support Unit.

They have all completed the five-week Police Explosive Technicians Course as well as Explosive Forced Entry at the Canadian Police College in Ottawa.

Each of the members of the unit are completely trained in the use of all the tools and equipment possessed by BPS. 

These tools include remote operations made up of robot and drone technology, X-ray, bomb suit, hook and line, and tools used in disruption of explosive devices in order to render them safe.

The training is likely much more intense than people would imagine, as real “homemade” bombs are used.

“As part of the training we receive, we have the ability to construct IEDs in order to better our understanding of various devices,” says Barkley. “This allows us to build IEDs which we then use to train one another during scenarios.

“The EDU unit trains on a monthly basis using the packages built by one another in secret so that the construction is unknown to the members being tested that day.”

It’s this intensive training and trust in one another’s ability that made the operation on Anne Street work smoothly, safely, and efficiently.

“I’m confident in my team and feel very comfortable that the scene survey and threat analysis used prior to ever entering the scene on foot have been thorough,” he says. “The confidence I have in myself and the team made me feel quite safe while in the scene (that day).

No arrests have been announced related to the Sept. 27 incident, and no serious injuries were reported.

The investigation continues.