Like you I am horrified by the events in Boston.Several years ago I was in Boston for the International Chiefs of Police Annual Conference. As a part of the event I participated in the Boston Foot Chase, a 5k race through Boston that started in Copley Square and we finished down the same stretch as the Marathon. It was a thrill to cross that same finish line which is painted on the street and which I saw again yesterday in the news coverage. I am saddened by what has happened and angry at this despicable crime no doubt perpetrated by someone wanted to make some twisted point.
While I am not an anti terror specialist I am highly confident that the responsible person or persons will be located and brought to justice. There is a significant amount of evidence that can be gathered from the bomb’s “fingerprints” which point to who made the bomb since bomb makers tend to have individualized methods. I know that the investigation is working at high-speed. The investigators must follow the evidence while at the same time remembering the rights of accused persons because we are a democratic society. That is a very tough balance to find sometimes but I know they are doing their best.
As a department responsible for security at large public events we are highly conscious of that balance between security and helping event organizers create a fun atmosphere. As recently as the NCAA event at the Palace last month we were confronted by that very issue. We do extensive planning for weeks in advance of that type of event. We know that event attendees sometimes resent security searches and don’t like entry delays. But we are responsible for a safe event so we do our best to find the balance. We use dog searches of the venue before events of this type and even require deliveries of fuel or any type of hazardous materials be scheduled in advance of the event or event loading because of the dangers that can present. We try to think of everything. We train, train, and train again for both detection and response. We plan and train with other agencies both public and private as often as we can.
Watching video of the police, fire and EMS response was simply amazing. I thought they were exceptional and I’m sure they saved many people–they were moving toward the blast locations even as they were fighting through their own shock response. Lt McDonnell pointed out to me this morning how many of them could be seen to be sending what appeared to be quick texts on their cell phones –to tell families they were safe no doubt, and that they would not be home for the foreseeable future. I understand all of the off duty police in Boston and neighboring communities were called to work immediately. I can tell you from experience on even lesser events, police and fire don’t wait to be called –they just come in because they know we’ll need them. I’m sure it is the same in Boston.
I also know that at these times there are rumors circulating at light speed. Media sources are often reporting unsubstantiated information as “facts” that can have the effect of exacerbating the situation. For example, I heard a local reporter last night talking about Boston and reporting that authorities there had shut down the cell phone grid as a security measure in the initial aftermath. I find that hard to believe that in the midst of a crisis response like that such a thing could be accomplished–those are privately owned networks–not controlled by the police. A more likely scenario to me is that the cell phone system, which has finite capacity, was overwhelmed. It happens to us on occasion when there is a big crash on the freeway and everyone is on the system trying to call us or to call home to tell someone where they are. The system simply can’t handle it. Our public safety radios become the only reliable communication that we have and our plans never include use of the public cell phone systems to communicate during a response because it won’t be available. Here is an article today on that topic.
I’m sure that the story will unfold in the days and weeks to come. Our best defense comes from people who report suspicious activities to us. If you “see something, say something” call us and give us a chance to prevent an event like yesterday.