More than six months after the Marathon bombings, questions linger about the conduct of the police operations that resulted in the death of Tamerlan Tsarnaev and the arrest of his brother. But the state and local governments still aren’t showing much interest, apparently preferring to take bows for the successful capture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev rather than address the issues of coordination among dozens of police departments — a logistical problem that’s sure to hamper any future emergency responses.
The US Justice Department is launching its own review of the public safety response. But Governor Deval Patrick’s administration also needs to examine the role of state and local public safety agencies, especially during the firefight in Watertown and daylong search for the brother who escaped.
Watertown officers initially exchanged gunfire with the Tsarnaev brothers on Laurel Street just after midnight on April 19. Officers from other departments rushed in to help. Some were off-duty and came on their own. In the firefight that resulted, the police fired as many as 300 rounds. MBTA officer Richard H. Donohue Jr. was hit by a bullet from another officer’s gun. Surely the Watertown police needed help, but did the presence of so many officers encourage more gunfire than was necessary?
Tamerlan Tsarnaev was fatally wounded, but Dzhokhar Tsarnaev sped off in a stolen SUV, and abandoned the vehicle a short distance away. While he was fleeing, some officers were distracted by the necessity of saving Donohue’s life. Did the shooting of Donohue cost the police an opportunity to apprehend Dzhokhar Tsarnaev quickly?
Senior public safety administrators established a 20-block cordon where a search would be conducted. By first light, more reinforcements arrived from the State Police, local departments, and federal agencies. At full strength the police contingent probably numbered 1,000. They didn’t find Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Why not?
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