WORCESTER — The head of the FBI’s Boston division fended off questions of friction between his office and local law enforcement just before giving the commencement address at his alma mater, Assumption College, Saturday morning.
Richard DesLauriers said his agency works “shoulder-to-shoulder” with local law enforcement officers, despite a recent congressional hearing that suggested a possible breakdown in intelligence-sharing regarding the 2011 investigation of Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
“We work very, very collaboratively together,” DesLauriers said in an interview with the Globe. “We’re always working shoulder-to-shoulder in times of crisis or in times of big investigations as well as more customary times.”
DesLauriers said Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis, whom he described as “a great friend,” called him within three minutes of last month’s twin explosions asking for help, and it came in the form of immediately dispatched federal special teams.
Davis testified before members of the House Homeland Security Committee Thursday, and his testimony elicited angry responses from several congressmen who railed about information sharing. Some said they perceived tension among law enforcement officials as a result of the hearing, but DesLauriers said Saturday that such allegations “couldn’t be farther from the truth.”
During the hearing, Davis said he was first told about the FBI’s previous interest in Tamerlan Tsarnaev only after the FBI identified his body, following a confrontation with police in Watertown. Davis said he also was not advised of Tsarnaev’s 2012 trip to the Dagestan region of Russia, despite having three Boston police detectives and one sergeant assigned to the Boston Joint Terrorism Task Force.
Reaction to the hearing prompted Davis and DesLauriers to release a joint statement Friday assuring the public that “our agencies have, and continue to have, a close, strong, and effective partnership.”
The statement acknowledges those who question the level of cooperation between the agencies but says asking questions “should not be confused with a reasonable evaluation of the facts and circumstances surrounding this matter.”
Interdepartmental cooperation led to the capture of Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his younger brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, within 101 hours of the attack, the statement said. Three people were killed and more than 260 were injured in the April 15 bombing. Tamerlan Tsarnaev died after a shoot-out with police in the early hours of April 19. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was arrested later that day and is in custody.
“We pulled together as one team, and we are fighting one fight to achieve justice for the victims,” DesLauriers said Saturday.
DesLauriers graduated from Assumption College in 1982, following in the footsteps of his father and two uncles, all of whom were alumni of the small Roman Catholic liberal arts college. He was asked to give the keynote address to the school’s 605 graduates long before the events of April 15.
Still, the events of the past 3½ weeks were on the minds of those sitting under huge white tent on the campus’s H.L. Rocheleau Field, where DesLauriers also received an honorary doctorate degree. The bombings were mentioned during Hannah-Lee Hilsman’s valedictorian address about the student body’s commitment to social justice and service to mankind.
“In the wake of the recent events, I believe this world needs a few more Greyhounds,” the graduate of psychology and women’s studies said, referencing the school’s mascot. “In the days after the Boston Marathon bombings, we . . . demonstrated solidarity with our neighbors in the Boston metropolitan area through ‘Wear Boston’ days and offered emotional and spiritual support for members of the Assumption community who had been touched by those abominable acts.”
Graduates received the Assumptionist cross engraved with the college’s motto “until Christ be formed in you” to, as President Francesco Cesareo said during his greeting, “serve as a reminder in the years ahead of the values that animated your experience here. You will need to draw on those values as you engage in the world that awaits you.”
DesLauriers, 53, told the students that he still follows the “moral compass” imbued in the lessons and life at Assumption. “This characteristic, in my opinion, is absolutely essential to success in the workplace, and broader success in life,” he told the crowd. “Possessing a moral compass is vitally important . . . especially in a world which today so often appears morally agnostic.”
Before the ceremony, DesLauriers, a Catholic, said prayers, faith, and nourishing one’s spiritual nature are keys to “being able to take the right action in a crisis situation. Whether others are praying for you or you’re praying for the victims of the crime, or you’re praying for your fellow law enforcement officers . . . faith is definitely critical.”Akilah Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org