Thousands saluted, clapped, and shouted praise for police from across New England and as far away as Pennsylvania and Canada on Sunday at the Aquidneck Island National Police Parade in Rhode Island.
Among hundreds of officers honored, special attention went to four men from a department sorely tested when their quiet town became the center of a manhunt for the Boston Marathon bombing suspects.
“I’d like to recognize the Watertown honor guard that’s present today. Obviously you all know the police department of Watertown did a remarkable job,” an announcer said, provoking loud applause.
Watertown police Lieutenant Chris Munger said the honor guard had come to the parade in response to a special invitation from the organizers.
“We’re representing our police department, Chief Ed Deveau, and especially the guys who were involved in [the] incident,” Munger said. “Our whole department really came together for that night, and it was really amazing to see.”
Munger said that even with extensive training, it is impossible to completely prepare for situations like the one police faced when brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev led law enforcement on a chase through Watertown streets and engaged officers in a firefight.
“Just to be confronted with that kind of violence and that kind of threat to your well-being, and you’re facing death — to face that and not back down, and to actually fight back and survive it, it’s an amazing credit to the officers who were involved at the scene,” he said.
Members of the honor guard took part in the search but not the firefight, Munger said.
Newport resident Bill Kelly, 64, said he served as an officer in Jamestown, R.I., “a long time ago.” Kelly and his family were disappointed that there wasn’t greater fanfare for the Watertown officers, and said he didn’t realize he had seen them until they had passed.
“Somebody should have been there with a banner to let us know who they are,” he said. “We’d like to say thank you. . . . They did a fantastic job.”
Kelly and thousands of others lined Rhode Island’s Route 138 in Middletown and Newport, sitting in folding chairs and on blankets. Children with soap-bubble squirters filled the air with shiny spheres that caught the warm sunlight and reflected the bright blue sky.
Many officers who marched wore black bands over their badges in memory of officers killed in the line of duty, including MIT police Officer Sean Collier and Rhode Island’s own Max R. Dorley, a Providence sergeant killed in a car accident while responding to a call on April 19 last year.
Dorley’s aunt, Hawa Vincent, attended with her three children, a grandson, and Dorley’s wife and sister. Vincent said she brought Dorley with her when she emigrated from Liberia in 1981 and raised him like her own son. “He was a very nice person,” said Vincent, 56. “Very humble, respectful . . . loved his family, loved his job.”
Though Boston officers did not officially participate, at least one was present. Among the Rhode Island Highlanders pipe band, the blue Boston police uniform shirt Officer Gerry Boyce wore above his kilt stood out against the other band members’ white shirts, black vests, and navy ties.
Boyce, a 25-year veteran officer, has played drums in the band for several years.
“Normally it’s just a band deal, but this year it’s just a little more important because of all that’s happened in the area,” Boyce said.
Boyce reflected on the recent displays of broad public support and appreciation for police and said they won’t last forever. “It’s like a honeymoon. . . . It’s just the nature of the job doesn’t lend itself to positive publicity all the time,” he said. “It’s good to see people’’ showing appreciation.