Law enforcement officers today conducted a drill off the Malibu coast to prepare for the possibility of terrorists smuggling a weapon of mass destruction into Southern California by sea.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is participating with dozens of other local, state and federal agencies in a 3-day exercise to improve response capabilities for intercepting drug smugglers, immigrant traffickers and hazardous materials.
“The scenario today is armed suspects with a type of dirty bomb,” said Nicole Nishida, spokeswoman for the Sheriff Department. “The officers will decontaminate the substance and divers will check the hull for any additional substances and devices.”
Two law enforcement vessels, the 55-foot Ocean Rescue 2 and the Raptor, a inflatable boat with two, 350-horsepower motors that can propel the boat to 75 mph, approached a small vessel believed to contain a dirty bomb.
The Ocean Rescue 2 is equipped with a sensor that detects hazardous chemicals, and in a real-life scenario, “we would contact the FBI immediately, and then begin to approach the suspected boat,” said Sgt. Mick Kelleher of the hazmat unit of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Officers in hazmat suits, equipped with respirators and semi-automatic weapons, boarded the vessel and began escorting the suspected chemical smugglers off the boat, spraying them with water and a decontaminant solution before they were taken into custody.
Kelleher said this was the first exercise of this kind for the agency, in which a terrorist would bring in a nuclear or chemical agent by sea.
After the suspects were apprehended, scuba divers were called in from Naval Base Ventura County to examine the underside of the boat for any potential packages and substances tied underneath.
In addition to this exercise, other scenarios during the 3-day session include search and rescue operations, humanitarian assistance and vehicle checkpoints.
“We do about two to three patrols every week,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff Deputy Jeff Bosket. “And about once a week we find a boat with drugs or immigrants.”
The Coastal Trident training program was established in 2007, and has since grown to include 30 local agencies, including the FBI, the U.S. Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protections and the Navy.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Navy funded the exercise.