I agree that the information from the article was very limited on what brought about the conclusion that this was an actual geocache container. I agree that media doesnt always get the facts correct before reporting information and that often information is "embellished" to make a better story.
The facts as I understand from the limited information giving are that somehow LEO 's attention was brought to a suspicious container. To me, this means that a concerned citizen placed the call to 911 and the authorities arrived on scene. I am not going to speculate on what methods they used to determine what the contents were i.e . robot, camera, xray or physically opening the container and looking at the contents. It may have been based only on what the 911 caller reported.
As all of you, I do have an opinion. I will base my opinion not on being new to this sport. I will not base this opinion on the few posts that I have in place or at this time the two hides I have or the under one hundred caches I have found.
I am an LEO. I have been for almost 23 years now. If you will allow me to qualify myself, please. If you are reading this , it is because you have an interest in what this post was about. I work for a large police department. Prior 9/11 , LEO was very limited on their handling of "suspicious packages" and bomb threats. With no formal training on these items, basically we would look around , hopefully find whatever someone called in on and either "poke" at it or "give it a nudge"and see what happens. Often times, a package would be opened up and inspected. Training in these areas was very limited as described. If it wasnt the obvious fragmentation grenade or something with wires and a battery attached to it, we really didnt know the difference.
Until recently, I did not know what geocaching was. The shift that I work with didnt know what geocaching was until I started to talk about it. Some are actually doing this on their days off now too. I will get back to this..
Please dont take this as bragging. Again, I am trying to qualify myself and give another perspective.
Prior to 9/11 , I worked for my department as a Federally licensed DOT inspector. I recieved the federally mandated training required to do department of transportation inspections on commercial motor vehicles. This included doing hazardous materials inspections on cargo tankers. I was certified to inspect hazardous materials on board these vehicles. I was certified to respond to accidents involving hazardous materials that were being transported. I was certified as a hazmat technician for five years. This included extensive training with the local fire department hazmat crews.
Post 9/11, Our department initiated its counter terrorism / wmd response team. I trained on the federal level and was a member of our WMD response team. This training was very very detailed and included training in Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives fields. Foreign and domestic terrorism intelligence and training were what I was trained in. I have been to several parts of the country where I received this training in all areas of CBRNE. I am instructor qualified at the federal level. My specialties were in receiving training in these fields and how to respond to these incidents, how to maintain incident command, train officers within our department as well as other city departments on terrorism/weapons of mass destruction. I was one of a few that would don the various protective incapsulated suits and go in where the suspicious powder or device was. I would gather this up to the FBIs standards in evidence collection in order to prosecute correctly, if possible. I have dealt with "face to face" ,things that you read about or see on the news and often seem to arm chair quarterback about. This is my chosen career and this is what I do. I have declared suspicious items as explosives and/or hazardous materials. I have located explosive devices/ IEDs at our local infrastructures. I have responded to and located explosive devices at abortion clinics, churches , schools, etc...anywhere there is controversy.
We dont just walk up to it and place a charge next to it and blow it up. We gather as much information on what we have and talk to as many witnesses as possible. When there is an indication that this item is capable of causing injury or death to the public, the item will be destroyed. It is what is done by visual inspection if possible, robot, remote camera, xray and whatever intelligence is available.
A side note, yes caches are your private property. When an item is out of your direct control and I mean there are no readily available means to know that this is yours, it is considered abandoned or in this case, a suspicious package. You know that when you place a cache that it is fair game to be stolen or vandalized. Statements like what right do LEO have....etc. I mentioned earlier that none of the shift members had any idea what geocaching was until I mentioned it recently. Yes , do I know how to find out who it belongs to etc , utilize coordinates to verify etc, yes. Unfortunately, this is not known throughout the department as is with other departments. The right is to protect people from death or serious injury. If an officer walked up and opened every suspicious package that someone called in on, there would be alot of related officer injuries and deaths. What confidence would you have in your emergency reponders? I do understand not all are fans of LEO's.
I have since returned to patrol as a supervisor and still respond when I hear these types of calls come out. I have a different perspective on what a suspicious items container may actually be now due to my knowledge of geocaches. We are trained though these days that if it is a suspicious package call, clear the area out and call in the specialists. We dont kick containers any more. This is what we train. This is how it is these days. If there is any indication that it contains a hazardous material or unidentifiable material, it will be rendered "safe" and then analyzed more carefully.
I am planning to establish my credibility just a bit more and hit my "one hundred" find mark and present this information about geocaching to my department. I will accomplish this soon.I have already begun a working on a presentation for my department regarding this information. Please understand though, larger departments implementation of training often takes time.
Thank you for allowing me to present my perspective. I expect that I will get my share of "non" fan mail as a result of my posting. I am not saying that our way is always the best way. Its just where we are these days as opposed to the way we used to do things.