Report Investigated Response to Bomber Manhunt in Watertown

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When the Boston Marathon Bombing suspects came to Watertown law enforcement and emergency personnel leapt into action and ultimately stopped the pair. A report recently published by Harvard University researchers examined how well agencies responded.

The report, called “Why Was Boston Strong?: Lessons from the Boston Marathon Bombing” was produced by the Kennedy of School of Government’s Program on Crisis Leadership. Researchers used interviews with more than 100 people involved in the response to the bombing at the Marathon finish line as well as the shootout and manhunt in Watertown.

The report concluded that the response at the finish line worked well in part because of the large presence of first responders already in place for the race, and because of good coordination.

It also praises the people of Greater Boston for their resilience during the events of April 15-19, 2013, and said similar instances should be celebrated.

“In the face of the bombing, Boston showed strength, resilience, even defiance – and these were key drivers of the overall outcomes … that is, of “Boston Strong,” the report reads.

The coordination in Watertown during the shootout, however, could use more refinement, researchers wrote in the report.

The report reads: “Dangerous situations that threatened both responders and bystanders developed at the scene of the Thursday night shootout and Friday apprehension of the second suspect in Watertown, in part because of an overload of individual public safety officers operating as individuals rather than in disciplined units.”

Researchers referred not only to the shootout with the bombing suspects, but also to incidents during the search for suspects including one where “the pedestrian was surrounded by officers from multiple agencies, most with weapons drawn – which meant that officers were in effect also pointing their weapons at one another,” the report read.

One of the ways to reduce the danger is by having more discipline and training for using weapons in a quickly evolving situation where officers from multiple agencies are involved.

“Control over fields of fire and authorization to fire is another critical micro-command issue in any rapidly-evolving, high-stress, emotion-laden event,” the report reads.

The report also recommends that senior commanders not get too bogged down in the details of the response but rather to concentrate on the “big picture.” Part of doing so would be to avoid an overload of information from the news media and social media during the event.

Police and other first responders should be rotated in and out to prevent exhaustion. The report found some personnel had been awake for 36 or more hours during the manhunt.

Read the entire report by clicking here. An interview by WBUR with one of the authors of the report can be heard here.

One thought on “Report Investigated Response to Bomber Manhunt in Watertown

  1. Disgraceful to second guess that night. Though I was not born or raised in Watertown I did live there for a long time, and I am proud to shout that loud and clear! Law enforcement from Watertown and every other town involved should be commended for their response and their commitment to keep the community safe. It’s sad that some Harvard Researchers can now sit back and tell them what they did wrong.

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