Boston Strong is a thing and it's why the Marathon bombings weren't worse

A report by researchers at the Harvard Kennedy and Law schools analyzes the way Boston-area emergency officials reacted after the bombs went off on Boylston Street and concludes that while decades of training and coordination by local police agencies in dealing with large events with the Marathon, coupled with some luck, minimized the death toll and helped organize the search for the Tsarnaevs, an attitude of "Boston Strong" also played a key role:

"Boston Strong" is much more than a phrase or passing sentiment. It captures many different elements of what happened during and after the sad events of the week of April 15.

A part of Boston Strong is pride in the inspired work of those involved in responding to the event - the bystanders, the other runners, the Boston Athletic Association volunteers, the first responders, the medical staff at the finish line, the doctors and nurses and support staff in the hospitals, police from all responding agencies, fire, National Guard; in short, everyone who helped. From their dedicated, selfless work springs inspiration.

Another part of Boston Strong is an expression of resilience - that people, including those directly and indirectly injured, those involved in the response, and the community as a whole will come back, stronger than ever, going on with their lives and hopes and dreams.

And a part of Boston Strong is an expression of unwillingness to be intimidated. This is a forward-looking form of resilience - the community refuses to cower, to be deterred or diverted from its ongoing work and life and hopes and dreams.

In the report (copy attached below), the researchers identified several factors that helped clear the bombing scene of the injured in less than a half hour:

There were already large numbers of medical and emergency personnel and ambulances on scene, both for the traditional aid to dehydrated runners and among spectators. There were also large numbers of police - and commanders made sure additional arriving officers parked their cars where they wouldn't block the ambulances. Roads were largely clear because it was a state holiday - the same for operating rooms at local hospitals - and the bombings happened just as shifts were changing at local emergency rooms, which meant large numbers of doctors and nurses were already on duty.

But what worked well on Boylston Street - the large number of emergency and police workers flooding the area - didn't work so well at the gun battle in Watertown and the final capture of Dzhokar Tsarnaev the next day, the report continues: When word got out of both incidents on police radio, large numbers of heavily armed law-enforcement officers rushed to the scene, resulting in officers with guns pointed at each other and roads clogged with the cars of out-of-town officers unfamiliar with Watertown streets.

The researchers have several recommendations, including training and creation of better protocols for creating "micro-command" at scenes where large numbers of police from different jurisdictions arrive at a scene at once.



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    That 7-Eleven robbery and Sean Collier

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    The report explains why MIT Officer Sean Collier's cruiser was where it was when he was attacked and killed:

    On the evening of Thursday, April 18, an armed robbery took place at a 7/11 convenience store at 750 Massachusetts in Central Square in Cambridge. MIT police officer Sean Collier, on patrol that evening a few blocks away and hearing reports over his radio about the robbery, had positioned his vehicle near the intersection of Vassar Street and Main Street facing out toward a street that suspects fleeing from the robbery might traverse and from a vantage point where he could monitor an illegal left turn that people commonly made into the campus. Surveillance video from a nearby building shows that at about 10:25 that evening, two men approached Collier's vehicle on the driver's side from behind and shot Officer Collier five times. They moved away from the vehicle, and then returned, apparently attempting to steal Officer Collier's weapon, but were unable to get it to release from his "retention" holster (designed to make it difficult for anyone other than the owner to remove it). They then left the scene.

    Cambridge Police recently released information on the man they say committed the 7-Eleven robbery.

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    Thank you Adam. This has

    Thank you Adam. This has bothered me since that very long night, its nice to finally hear the why. May Sean rest easy knowing his death led to the death of one and the capture of the other.

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    It sure seems that the events

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    It sure seems that the events of the holiday and the marathon really contributed to a quick response, in that aspect timing was everything and it was on the side of those that needed it that day, thank God.

    Unfortunately, the Watertown incident leaves me less than comfortable. As I said before, a family member lives on Franklin St and their house still has the bullet holes. The most troubling aspect for that is that their house is in no way in between the officers and the suspect. It is several doors down. Who the heck was firing guns in the opposite direction of the target? It is just plain luck that no civilians were killed that night. Looking at all the firepower for one guy, sure, they didn't know he was unarmed, but it ended up being like 100 officers to one suspect. Overkill and emotions seemed to run rampant that night. As I said before, I'd be quite nervous around those officers that night as their emotions seemed to run wild. Probably better training and coordination is needed for events like this.
    I know, easy enough for me to say in hindsight..

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    That was no ordinary police action

    this was a Warlike combat situation with the terrorist firing a weapon and hurling explosives at police. The police, at that time, could not determine the number of attackers or from where additional attacks may come. It's not the movies. Most officers were armed with a 9 mm side arm. Think for a moment about being shot at, having explosives thrown at you and you have a small caliber side arm to defend yourself. Not a great place to be. Its Friday morning quarterbacking.

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    were three dead and a bunch of limbless people, a lunatic that threw bombs and shot at police, I don't know maybe they should have brought paintballs.

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    Awesome Hindsight!

    Why yes! Thursday night between Officer Collier being shot, pressure cookers being tossed out of cars, Watertown side street gunfights, and the final takedown Michael you had the playbook right in front of you, right? . Why didn't you saunter on down to the Lexus dealership on Arsenal where the command post was set up early on Friday morning and tell them everything. We could have had that day back instead of those cops just sitting around knowing that a Manchester United fan was stuck in a boat without any weapons just outside the perimeter. I could have watched the Price Is Right instead of Jonathan and Lisa.

    Michael - What are the powerball numbers for this weekend? What is going to be the score of the Sox game this afternoon? Do you use Tarot Cards or is a Delphic gift?

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    If they knew the suspect was

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    If they knew the suspect was in the boat, it still doesn't explain the bullet holes in the house. I admit its all armchair quarterbacking, but if you knew the area and the location of the house compared to the boat I think you'd better see what I mean.

    Also, they think the suspect was in my families yard at one point as the forensic team found blood on the side of cars. They worked well into the night going through bushes, etc.. It sure is frightening to think he came that close.

    No one was allowed to leave the street for about a week. Others came but had to park at the bottom of Franklin and walk to the house escorted. I'm sure they needed the time to gather evidence without spectators coming through. Sure enough though, as soon as the street was re opened it soon filled up with gawkers.

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    That other guy

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    No one mention anymore that apparently innocent Watertown guy who was made to strip completely naked and lie motionless face down in the street with massive weapons pointed at his head, just because he happened to be around there.

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    The other thing I'll add,

    The other thing I'll add, something that was sort-of mentioned afterwards and then pretty much ignored, the boat was within the zone that police were searching house-by-house. How did they miss the boat?

    As much as I think the lockdown was a good idea (kept people off the streets, and kept the police from responding to nuisance calls so resources could be focused on apprehending the Tsarnaev brothers) the living brother was apprehended only because that homeowner left his home and noticed the blood and the cut cover on the boat.

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    The over militarization of

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    The over militarization of the police with the drug and war on terror hasn't coincided with increased training. So now they have all the toys and not enough training to use them responsibly and with restraint in situations like this. Many cops already do not practice enough beyond annual qualification. This is something which departments across the commonwealth need to take seriously and budget accordingly as a matter of public safety.

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    Marathon Good, Watertown Disastrous

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    Did you read the whole report, Adam?

    It's couched in the most mild-mannered, polite language imaginable. But as I read it, the report had two halves. It was enormously positive about the response to the bombings, crediting the careful pre-race coordination among a variety of different agencies. And it's a singularly damning account of what happened in Watertown.

    I'm actually really frustrated by the tone of the report, which goes far out of its way not to criticize individuals. The researchers are clearly trying to preserve their access to officials and records in future crisis situations, so they can produce similar reports down the road. Fine. But that effort to preserve access has resulted in deeply misleading coverage of what's actually in the report itself. If a journalist behaved like this, he'd be excoriated by his peers, and probably fired. I think academic researchers - who, after all, enjoy far greater job security - ought to be held to at least as high a standard.

    What does the report actually say? It found, in Watertown, that every law enforcement official in the area put on their lights and sirens and rushed to the scene, not just during the initial shootout, but also when the report came in of the body in the boat. "This created confusion, command challenges, crossfire situations, and other conflicts." Officers acted as individuals, not as part of a coordinated team. They sometimes failed to identify themselves when requested to do so. Everyone started shooting, and an officer got shot, almost certainly by his own colleagues. The same thing happened at the boat. There should have been no rush. The suspect was cornered. But instead of a careful, coordinated approach, it was a cluster$@$@. Officers opened fire with no evident provocation, and nearly killed their only suspect and witness, who was unarmed.

    So the bottom line is that the police, fire, and medical personnel worked together extraordinarily smoothly in Boston on the day of the bombing. And their failure to do the same in Watertown exposes a basic lack of coordination, training, and command and control.

    How anyone's supposed to learn those lessons when they're buried beneath so much fluff is beyond me. But the lessons need to be learned, nonetheless.

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    I did read the whole thing

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    Which is why I wasn't posting anything first thing in the morning like I usually do.

    Maybe I leaned on the "Boston Strong" angle too hard (since news of the report came out earlier this week) but, yes, you're right (as I thought I mentioned): What worked well on Boylston Street (massive numbers of emergency workers flooding the area) worked horribly in Watertown.

    The report goes into that in a fair amount of detail, and I might be imagining it, but it seemed like the authors were amazed only one officer was wounded in Watertown given the large numbers of heavily armed officers running toward each other with guns drawn, both at the initial gun battle with the Tsarnaevs and later at the boat (without naming him, they quoted William Evans getting on the radio and ordering everybody to stop firing and it took 10 seconds or so for officers to stop firing).

    That's why one of their main recommendations is to figure out a way to keep that from happening again and trying to get the people with guns to do the same sort of self-organizing into a command structure that their commanders did in the minutes after the bombings.

    Could be I'm just used to reading reports like this, so I didn't think it was particularly sugar-coated, maybe just breaded with a bit too much academicspeak.

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    Something like this happened in Seattle

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    .. when I lived there but it was more farcical.

    A cops kid went rogue and took of with a cruiser and in the ensuing confusing two cop units shot some stupid number of rounds at each other in a down town area without hitting anyone.

    It's your basic fog of war problem when you drag harmless backwater cops into a fast paced hell mess.

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    Ed Davis

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    On Emily Rooney's show last night, Emily asked the authors why they wrote up the report, one of the individuals said they were asked to write it by their friend Ed Davis. It was not meant to be an analytical report. I don't understand the purpose of it myself.

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    No Fear

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    Your world will return to normalcy soon and you can go back to your selfish/we deserve our privilege without question lives very soon.

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    Real America?

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    I think if the Watertown

    I think if the Watertown shoot-out and capture went about with the same control and coordination as the medical response on the marathon day (from the first responders right up to the surgeons) the police would have taken both brothers alive on Thursday night.

    I know it's easy to say all this in hindsight, but you had three and a half days of law enforcement hopped up on adrenaline looking to apprehend these guys, unrelenting media presence, a community out for blood, and an entire country looking for a resolution here. I can see how there was a lot of pressure on Boston-area law enforcement.

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    BPD 4/2013 Human Beings Under Pressure

    Researchers analyzing what could have been done differently regarding Watertown.....I listened to BPD scanner continuously that week in 2013. The police and others were stressed, traumatized, tired, afraid,angry,frustrated, and other emotions (just like the rest of Boston and beyond)

    Sure they could have... should have... might have..... but in the end, I give each and every person involved great respect. A terrible event occurred. Tactical lessons were learned...Criticism is easy when comfortable and safe watching video and reading reports.

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