ATF turns Nationwide Arena into explosive detection training center for canine officers


COLUMBUS (WCMH) – Central Ohio and other regional law enforcement agencies are leveraging federal resources to boost safety at home, and on Wednesday, Nationwide Arena transformed into a training ground for local agencies.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) hosted training and certification for explosive detection to more than two dozen canine teams from federal, state, and local law enforcement and fire service agencies.

“We see a trend where, unfortunately, more explosives are being used to harm people, and the dogs are a great tool to keep the public safe,” said ATF Special Agent David McMullen.

McMullen and his canine partner Hilton were running through practice drills on the floor of Nationwide Arena.

One of those drills was the National Odor Recognition Test (NORT), which consists of a circle of paint cans, some containing traces of explosive material. The canines are trained to find the explosives and alert their handlers.

“There has to be 100 percent detection for the test,” McMullen explained. “You don’t pass unless the dog finds every single odor.”

For practical purposes, the canines are used to detect everything from bombs to shell casings. Once certified, the pairings can work with the ATF to solve violent crimes.

“We can train local police officers to be ATF agents and to help us in our mission fighting violent crime and trying to get some of the firearms that are being used in illegal ways off the streets,” Special Agent In Charge Roland Herndon said.

The partnerships allow evidence, such as shell casings, found by canines and other ATF-trained officers to be entered into the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) to see if weapons have been used in other crimes. Herndon explained it streamlines investigations and can elevate criminal charges to the federal level.

Wednesday’s training comes as communities are experiencing surging violence. Columbus is on pace to break the all-time homicide record. Last week, the city announced a partnership with ATF to launch a Crime Gun Intelligence Center.

The bureau will be training Columbus officers to work with federal agents to process evidence, find suspects, and prosecute them for local crimes.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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