Boston Commish: 3 lessons learned from marathon bombing

Commissioner Edward Davis made a point to share some lessons learned from the response to this terrorist attack that might benefit other agencies

It is hard to believe more than six months have passed since the Boston Marathon bombing that killed three people and injured 264 others. It was a day that many will never forget, including Edward Davis, Commissioner of the Boston Police Department. Davis gave a riveting account of the bombing during a presentation to hundreds of police officers at the annual IACP conference in Philadelphia.

“It is an honor to be with you, the men and women who represent police agencies [across the country], who are charged with preventing this type of event and responding, if in fact, it does happen,” he said.

After showing a video of the chaos that ensued that day, Commissioner Davis shared his personal story. “I had been at the race that day with my wife, right across from where the first bomb went off,” recalled Davis.

Nearly Simultaneous Blasts
As he was leaving the marathon after the elite runners finished, he recalled a conversation he had with one of the 843 police officers working the marathon about how cooperative and decent the crowds had been that day.

He left for about an hour to take a phone call. Then at 1459 hours, the first bomb went off at the finish line. The second bomb went off seconds later, only a few hundred yards away.

Davis received a call immediately from the chief of police informing him of the explosions. “When the chief told me there were multiple amputations being reported, I formed the opinion that this was an IED and a terrorist-related event,” he said.  

The crime scene was extensive and the police created a 12-block perimeter, the biggest scene they had ever handled. While the FBI was the primary law enforcement arm handling the investigation, Commissioner Davis talked about the cooperation and the multijurisdictional response that went into hunting down and arresting the suspects.

He praised the law enforcement officers as well as the community. “Boston cooperated better than we ever expected,” he said.

Lessons Learned
Commissioner Davis made a point to share some lessons learned from the response to this terrorist attack that might benefit other agencies:

•    Tourniquets were critical to the survival of many of those injured by the bombs. As a result, all Boston police officers are now equipped with tourniquets.

•    Cellular and satellite phones did not work during this response. The only form of communication was the police radio system. Other police agencies need to take this communication challenge seriously when they prepare and plan their responses.

•    Have relationships with individuals in the media whom you can trust. There was a lot of misinformation being put out by the media. He recounted that it was very difficult to feed the media beast and do the investigation at the same time. He advised other agencies have strong social media personnel in place to handle the various accounts. After all, the police department’s Twitter account went from 53,000 followers to 304,000 and provided a great outlet for the agency to correct misinformation.

Commissioner Davis finished up his speech by revealing that this was likely his last week in policing. He has accepted a position at Community Resources for Justice, a human services company that runs halfway houses for people newly released from prison.

“I just want to say thank you for the work you do, day-in and day-out, protecting our cities,” he said. “It is a great honor to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with you.”

About the author

Leischen Stelter is the social media coordinator with the public safety team at American Military University. She writes about issues and trends relevant to professionals in law enforcement, fire services, emergency management and national security. Stelter is the former managing editor of Security Director News, an online business publication for physical security practitioners, where she spent four years writing articles, blogs and producing video segments on best practices in the private security industry.

Visit Leischen Stelter's blog, In Public Safety, to read many more columns and commentary of interest to public safety professionals. In addition, you can follow her on Twitter @AMUPoliceEd and on Facebook.

Contact Leischen Stelter.

  1. Tags
  2. Terrorism Prevention and Response
  3. Command Staff - Chiefs / Sheriffs
  4. Explosives - EOD
  5. Mass Emergency Response

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