Kudos to the Boston Globe, for publishing what can’t have been an easy story, under the (BOSTON STRONG!) circumstances:
This week, as the 2014 Boston Marathon draws near, memories of suffering and heroism surely dominate the minds of everyone in the city and region. Responses to the public safety challenge presented by the search for perpetrators, however, were far from flawless. Police officers made major mistakes in the use of weapons during the hunt for the Tsarnaev brothers in Watertown.
“Why Was Boston Strong?” — a report by the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University — analyzes the superb response of the medical community and first responders in treating the injured and conducting an investigation that quickly produced photos of the two suspects. Once the police located the SUV allegedly stolen by the brothers, Watertown officers cornered them and were in the process of subduing Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Then came the first mistake.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev attempted to escape in the SUV. Officers from other departments, called to the scene by an appeal for help from Watertown, opened fire on the vehicle. A police bullet likely hit and nearly killed MBTA officer Richard Donohue.
The Kennedy School report finds that “in tactical situations definitive and authoritative command is an essential resource.” The Watertown officers, familiar with each other and the neighborhood, sorted out their responsibilities despite being under heavy fire. Chaos ensued once the out-of-town officers arrived.
One officer riddled a vehicle with bullets, narrowing missing two officers inside; another shot grazed a transit police officer — the second and third gunfire mistakes. Officers with guns drawn surrounded a man walking in the area. Other officers, also with guns in hand, encircled the vehicle of another passerby. The report notes that this created “a potential crossfire hazard,’’ similar to that which resulted in the Donohue shooting. Intervention by superior officers possibly prevented another tragedy…