Serving his country to serving the community

March 28, 2024

Charles Hebron’s 23-year career as a bomb technician with the Yale Police Department (YPD) began after he failed three typing tests.

Portrait of Officer Hebron.

After retiring from the U.S. Marine Corps, Hebron heard that Yale Security was hiring, but he would have to pass a typing test scoring 25 words per minute. After three attempts, Hebron never scored above 23 words per minute and joined the YPD in 2002 as a patrol officer.

Hebron said former Lieutenant Harry DeBenedet asked if he was interested in being on the bomb squad because of his experience in the infantry.

“I told him I know how to blow things up, but I don’t know how to stop things from blowing up,” said Hebron. “In the military, we were taught to point in a specific direction and insert the blasting cap to blow things up.”

In 2005, Hebron trained to join the Yale Police bomb squad—the first Black person at YPD and in Connecticut. He trained on large vehicle explosions and hazmat, conducting and interpreting X-rays of packages and containers, and rendering them safe. He learned how to lace dynamite, set charges, and what water and other liquids can do to a package.

“The training was intense. If a bombing incident occurred anywhere across the country, a copy of the bomb was sent to the school, and they would make an exact copy so students would know what to look for,” said Hebron.

During Hebron’s first year as a bomb technician, he said a VIP came to Yale and bomb dogs were unavailable to sweep the campus.

“One of the New Haven bomb-sniffing dogs was in Ethiopia, and the other was on vacation. The State Police couldn’t provide dogs because they were on assignment. Former Chief of Police James Perrotti said we would not be in this predicament again. That’s when I got my first dog, Ely. I’m on my third dog,” Hebron said.

If a fire alarm sounds, follow instructions. Just because you can’t smell smoke doesn’t mean there is no emergency.

Hebron is one of several bomb technicians on the New Haven County bomb squad —the second busiest team in the state. When an incident occurs, he receives an alert. On the scene, the bomb squad is briefed on the incident and a plan is created. The technicians move into action, including putting on their suits, sending in a robot, or sweeping the area with a bomb-sniffing dog.

“It’s not as glamorous as the movies portray with the clock ticking and wires being cut, but what we do is equally important. We keep people at least 300 feet away from the scene and try to avoid interruptions because time matters,” said Hebron.

The bomb squad also receives calls from family members whose loved ones brought war memorabilia, like grenades, home.

Hebron’s work is not limited to Yale and New Haven County. He is a member of a team that conducts sweeps for the Boston Marathon.