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ONE ON ONE | Joe DeMatteo Policeman keeps explosive situations under control



Published: Mon, May 13, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



What is the worst thing you've seen doing this job?

In 1987, we had a bomb at a nursing home in Salem, Ohio. They had over a hundred pounds of explosives in this nursing home, that was under construction, and this particular explosive was the same type thing that Timothy McVeigh used in Oklahoma City.

There were three different containers, and each container had four sticks of deteriorated dynamite also. ... And this was all wired to go off to a clock. That was one of the biggest calls we ever had, one of the most dangerous ones. ... The ATF agent who was here at the time said that was the largest bomb ever in the state of Ohio. ... The biggest problem was we had an occupied nursing home within a hundred feet and a plaza across the street.

Do you have fear in this job?

I think the fear comes after. Initially, we're too busy concentrating on what we want to do, what we want to accomplish; we're focused on a job. We have a lot of confidence in each other, in our training, in our partners. So it's usually after the call's over that we sit back and say it's time to go get a cold beer.

What do you think people should know about explosives?

People don't realize how dangerous explosives are, even small explosives like fireworks. We get a lot of calls for fireworks or these illegally made ... explosive devices like M-80s, M-100s and above, up to M-1000s. They are very dangerous and can cause a lot of destruction.

A lot of people think they're just fireworks and there's nothing to worry about, but more bomb technicians in the United States have been injured or killed handling destruction of fireworks. ... There's a lot of little kids getting their hands blown off or their arms blown off, and we've seen it.

Why do you stay in this position?

I find it very interesting and I get an adrenaline rush when working on explosives. ... I feel like my training's there, I know what I'm doing, the confidence in my partner and equipment. It's just a challenge to me. It's a challenge, and I enjoy the challenge. So far I'm successful all the time. (He holds up 10 fingers.)

Who has most influenced your life?

My parents. ... The work ethic that I feel I have I believe I got from them, to do everything to the best of my ability. I was just always brought up to do that and strive to do better all the time.

Do you have any professional heroes?

I just think all the men and women in blue. All law enforcement officers don't get the credit they deserve. They're out there risking their lives all the time and trying to help people, and they get very little credit, but then one of them messes up.

The bad apple brings attention and makes everybody, all policemen, look bad when the majority of policemen are good, hardworking policemen, trying to do the best they can.

What's the best thing about the Youngstown Police Department?

The guys. The Youngstown Police Department does the best they can with the resources we have, I believe. If there was more money available for more modern-type equipment, there would be ways to improve it. But with what we have, I think we do an astounding job.

What do you think is the best thing about Youngstown?

The ethnicity of the city, a close-knit city. I think the people generally are friendly and compassionate to people, hard workers.

What do you do in your spare time?

I enjoy working out a lot, and golfing. And the Cleveland Indians. And I really enjoy spending time with my family, my kids especially. Doing things with them is pretty special. My boys play ball and I was always a Little League coach and that kind of thing with my sons, so I enjoy that.

What's your pet peeve?

I guess my pet peeve would be procrastination, procrastinators.

What's your favorite restaurant?

My favorite, in this area, I would have to say Caffe Capri. ... I like Italian food.

What would you like to do when you retire?

I'd like to have a condo in Florida, do a lot of golfing and just relax, enjoy life and travel.




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