'The true Soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because He loves what is behind him.' -G. K. Chesterton

21 April 2013

A Passionate Defense Of The Boston Cops - An Open Thread And An Invitation

(Title change. Because I can)

I did a rant about the perceptions of police actions in Massachusetts recently. You can find it if you scroll down just a bit. I encourage you to read that post and especially the comments. One of those commenters, Jacksonian Grouch, has taken me to task, challenged me and invited me to hold a conversation.

"When you're ready to have an adult conversation about this, send up a post that has a bit more depth."

I'm not sure what he means by a bit more depth but Ok, I'll bite. Here's your chance to weigh in on this topic on the site of a retired police officer.

Please read my post and all the comments and then, if you would be so kind, comment here. I promise not to delete comments and will respond to everyone who leaves me one. It may take me a day but I will respond. Commenters are free to engage with each other. Civility is temporarily set aside for this thread so have at it and give me your best shot. Tell your friends, all are welcome. Be aware, I also have friends and some of them both agree with me and are frighteningly smart so you critics have been warned. Links are also welcome but no video or pictures in comments. I can't spare the bandwidth. You might also peruse my tags list, especially the one labeled police to get some background on both my experience and views on modern policing. You might be surprised.

This is a very big event in modern American history and it deserves to be bandied about, studied and understood. I'll make my own position clear. The Mass cops did a magnificent job in their handling of the bombing, the aftermath and the pursuit of and capture of both suspects. I include the FBI in that though it pains me to make that admission. As a police veteran I understand their actions, mindset and what they wanted to accomplish. More importantly I understand why they reacted the way they did and took the actions they did.

A cop's first priority is public safety. Period. Yes, we have made mistakes in the past and continue to do so on an anecdotal basis. Guilty as charged and I have addressed this very issue when I talked about Hysterical Incompetence among my brethren. But none of that changes the fact that preservation of life is number one among our lists of things to do. When an officer is in active pursuit of a felon (note that word please, felon) he has an awful wide lawful latitude on things he can do to apprehend that felon. That includes pursuing him into a private home absent either a search or arrest warrant. An officer may also enter a home in Exigent Circumstances absent a search warrant if conditions on the ground warrant it, mostly in the pursuit of that public safety I talked about earlier. We can also (I say we because it's easier for me to write that way though I am at present retired) give lawful orders at crime and catastrophe scenes that may result in arrest if they are disobeyed. Yes, I understand that those of a more libertarian bent both hate and dispute that idea but it's true nevertheless. We can bar entry to an area and likewise evacuate the same if conditions meet the criteria. What is that criteria? It depends. Natural disasters, fires (Google Oakland Hills fire), petroleum refinery explosions, crime scenes, etc. The list is long and really depends on the situation, the conditions, the resources available and the agency(s) responsible. Let's examine Watertown/Boston for a moment.

We have two bombs that go off at the Boston Marathon, killing three and wounding more than 150, many critically. Law enforcement commences a massive investigation and suspects are identified by face. Pictures are released hoping for a break. See, we understand that the general population is our best resource. Someone will almost certainly know or see our suspects and let us know where they are. In the meantime we gather evidence, begin to make our case and make plans in the event we get a break.

The suspects did what many felons do, they went to ground in the hopes that the pursuit would pass them by so they could either escape or strike again. Given what we now know about our felons, making plans for a continuation of the violence seems like it was probably a pretty good idea since that's what happened. Fast forward a few days. Now we have our felons shooting an officer and carjacking an innocent's car. That's as much as shouting to the police "Hey, here we are! Come and get us!" The police accept the challenge and the active pursuit of violent felonious criminals in the act begins anew. Shots are fired from the fleeing vehicle and bombs are tossed willy nilly across the landscape. And a large landscape it is. Miles of streets. The felons are finally cornered and a gunfight breaks out. Another officer is critically wounded. That makes two gunned down in a very short period of time in an active and ongoing crime. One felon is killed after officers exchange fire with the two brothers and still try to take him alive. The second felon flees.

Have I mentioned that these two brothers are bombers armed with both IEDs and firearms? We an dispense with the definition of terrorist of you like but that doesn't change what they were. Armed enemy combatants committing a continuing act of War against the United States of America and her citizens. But I digress.

The active crime scene is now huge. It runs from Cambridge to Watertown and all the surrounding environs , including the city of Boston. The cops don't know if the fleeing felon is wounded or not but they can't make that assumption. He could be anywhere his feet or a convenient vehicle can take him and the longer he's loose the further away he could be. They also know he's been armed so they can safely assume he's both still armed and ready to kill. Again. He has already done so 4 times and tried many, many more. This isn't a pursuit of Billy Bob who just hit his ex and ran off into the neighborhood. It's not sumdood who stuck up the corner Stop&Rob when it all went to hell and he had to flee. This is an active (there's that word again) combatant who has killed and shows every sign that he's eager for a confrontation so he can kill again. He's killed both police and civilians (Yes, I know we're also civilians. Work with me here) and shows no compunction about killing even children.

What do our police do in such a chaotic and dangerous environment? What would you do? Remember, this is an active crime scene with a mad bomber running loose who has already killed 4 and wounded scores. There are explosions and shots being fired. It's an ongoing massive and violent clusterfuck and it's now your job to unfuck it. Lives are at stake here. Many lives. You must act immediately and forcefully to bring this to a successful and hopefully casualty free conclusion but act you must. Right now not hours later or tomorrow or the day after. Right. Fucking. Now. That's your job and what your community both hired you for and expects of you. Don't be wishy washy here. Don't fidget and stall for time. It's here now, it's huge, people are fucking dying right fucking now for for God's sake do something and do it quick!!!! But Lord help you if you're wrong because then We Will Crucify You!!!!! Yep, that's what a scene like that looks like for those men and women on the sharp end. Something to bear in mind kids.

So act they did. They exercised their lawful authority to control an active crime/disaster scene. They temporarily locked down the scene, put on their big boy pants and went in after this psychopathic terrorist knowing that the next bomb might be going off in their faces. They threw up a cordon and stopped all forms of public transportation. Except for the taxis. Did you know that? Some taxis ran for those trapped in places other than their homes. Then they went door to door (but didn't do mass entries in spite of what some might say), house to house, street by street searching for our remaining murderous, violent, psychopathic felon. It took time but such a search usually does. They were pugnacious, courageous, swift and daring. They were also compassionate. They did all in their power to bring that scene to a quick and safe conclusion. Yes, in the end it took a citizen investigating a suspicious circumstance about his boat to capture the felon alive but that's not the cop's fault. I've seen escapees watch the cordon for holes and weaknesses to allow them to move from hiding spot to hiding spot. In the end it avails them nothing as was the case here. The casualties were limited to two cops and both of our felons. No innocents were injured in the course of these events (that I am aware of).

If you want to understand how the police actions were viewed then just watch the interviews with those affected and the videos of them community lining the streets to thank those brave officers for the job they did. Now contrast and compare the actions of those American police officers with the Indian cops response to Mumbai. Here's the money quote:

The two gunmen fled the scene and fired at pedestrians and police officers in the streets, killing eight police officers. The attackers passed a police station. Many of the outgunned police officers were afraid to confront the attackers, and instead switched off the lights and secured the gates.

Compare that to this:

After more than 200 rounds were traded over several minutes, some officers were out of ammunition and charged the brothers’ position with their police car. The vehicle was disabled by gunfire from the Mercedes. Kitzenberg said he saw one of the shooters toss a metallic object — possibly a pressure-cooker bomb similar to the ones used in the marathon attack — in the direction of the police line. It rolled a few yards before detonating harmlessly.

And make no mistake here, these two murderous brothers were after a Mumbai like outcome. They didn't get it because our police officers stood up and in effect told them 'Over our dead bodies' and then backed that up with their blood.

The funniest thing about all of the criticism I've seen is that I get the clear indication that the cops could not have been right no matter what they did. If their response had been wishy washy and someone had been killed, say in a hostage situation,  they'd have been as roundly criticized if not more so. The truth is that in some eyes the police cannot win. We understand that and the very best among us act in accordance with their education, training and moral/ethical compass and just do the right thing regardless of the naysayers. They're called Street Cops and I love them dearly for it.

And lest we forget, police administration, the courts and every personal injury and defense lawyer in the country. Admin will sell you out in a hot second for a general pass from the media for the organization, the courts will censure and even jail you depending on how big a hard on the local DA has for convicting a cop and  defense attorneys will literally salivate themselves to death if you made an error. What all that means is that every decision you made and every action you took will be scrutinized in the light of safety by those who were not there and wouldn't understand even if they were. And it'll go on for weeks, years, decades after the fact. That means that if those folks who were subject to the lockdown or any other action of those Mass cops doesn't like it redress is only as far as the IA desk and the nearest attorney's office.

So there you have it. My reaction to the actions of those officers in Mass and my simple explanation for why they did what they did. I am hardly the first or last authority in these matters so if I have made errors please point them out and if correct I will amend them. The floor is now yours. You may agree. You may disagree. I hope you will respond carefully and thoughtfully. I really hope you will not only offer criticism but also explain, given what the officers at the scene either knew or suspected, what you would have done differently and why. Because criticism without alternates is really just kvetching because you hate cops and they're always wrong. I really hope that's not what's going on here.

The very idea that those cops acted unconstitutionally and as jackbooted thugs worthy of the SS and the Gestapo really burns my ass. These are brave and worthy officers acting within the strictures of the law and in the best traditions of their service. You want to discuss? You got it. Let's discuss.
(After some cross talk with TinCanAssasin I have come to the conclusion that those words are unnecessarily confrontational and may serve to turn off some that may otherwise wish to engage in this discussion. My purpose here is to both defend good police work as I see it and to address the gulf that currently exists between citizen and cop by talking about how such work is done, why and the thinking that goes into critical events like this one, not to be seen as simply a by rote apologist for my profession. A gulf that seems to be growing almost daily. If we can have a frank and open discussion here then perhaps others can and will as well. The first step to understanding is the ability to relate and see another point of view.)



TinCan Assassin said...

Six, I respect your view on the matter, as well as your experience. But these same cops enforce unconstitutional gun laws. At what point does "it's for public safety" cross the constitutional line into foul territory?

I agree, that these Officers responded admirably to a serious shit sandwich. My personal quibble is that with the exception of JayG, and a few other privileged folks in Boston, none of the Citizens could defend themselves from the aforementioned felons, should they decide to enter said Citizen's home.

And please admit that Humvees and Strikers on one's street would be disconcerting to your average American. The War is supposed to be OVER THERE. (I'll grant you that in came here in this instance.)

Six said...

Thanks Tin Can and I do yours as well.
It's a fair question and the only answer I can give you is 'It depends on the situation'. Every one will be different and each will have it's own unique set of issues and actions. It's not a one size fits all thing. We have to judge each by it's individual merits and errors and go from there.
I am on record as opposing the militarization (though I hate that word) of the police. I do think that the police do need some capability of enhanced force projection in this time of mass violence but there certainly needs to be a line somewhere and we have both seen it crossed.
You are entirely correct in your assertion that it is criminal that those folks are largely unarmed. I agree completely. Me motivation for both the rant and this post was to address what I see as the unfair criticisms and outright slander of the cops who responded to this incident. After we're done here I promise to address gun laws in Mass and their real and potential effect in situations like this one.
Thanks for weighing in.

Murphy's Law said...

Two points in regard to TCA:

1. Gun laws. Who makes anti-gun laws? I get so sick and tired of people blaming the police for enforcing those laws when it's the elected representatives who pass those laws and the citizenry who elected and re-elected those representatives. Most cops are supporters of gun rights but they also have a job to do as public servants, and that job is enforcing the laws that the people put themselves under. Do you get to decide at your job which part of it you will or will not do? Do you want each police officer to decide for himself which laws he or she will or will not enforce? Seriously? Because that can cut both ways.

2nd point: The military vehicles that you saw in Boston were not police vehicles. The National Guard was called in to assist for purposes of perimeter security and other manpower issues.

Tango said...

Murphy, these are not National Guard vehicles:

Just a nitpick there...

In other news: My real point for posting and arguing my stance is that innocent civilians were forcibly removed from their homes en masse, told they could NOT go to work, told they could NOT open up their businsses, all under threat of arrest, and across multiple cities.

Six, you contradicted yourself and I think you know it, but it was still done... you said the police's job is protection of the populace (paraphrased) and previously you correctly stated the fact that SCOTUS has determined that the police have NO DUTY to protect.

Combine that with the one REAL job of the police: Find evidence for prosecutors. From my standpoint, even though I am clean as a whistle (TS clearance at one point, background checks done frequently, etc), a cop can always find something ugly to hit me with because IT'S HIS JOB. He cannot possibly help me in a legal situation. Forcing me from my home so he can walk through it unimpeded. Yes, he is looking for a terrorist, but if he is in there looking for a terrorist and notes that one of those citizens had a Glock magazine that held 11 rounds laying out and make a mental note of it, they also now have PC to come back or to have the guy arrested right on the spot.

The cops do an amazing job... but they legally are unable to help me out. It should be, but isn't, up to me to ensure my own safety if I so choose. I don't have a RIGHT to police protection. I only get police protection if they choose to be so kind on that particular day (Gonzales v. Castle Rock.)

Tango said...

source link for the above images. Yes, I know the article is very one-sided and biased (but I repeat myself). Images aren't opinions and are incapable of bias. They just tell the story of what's in front of the camera.


TinCan Assassin said...

Murphy: Valid point regarding who writes the laws and who elects those officials. And I also understand that Cops are not judges, insofar as they have an immediate elected or appointed official forcing them to enforce lesser laws instead of the Highest Law in the land. But the 2A is LAW, and shouldn't your bretheren be enforcing that, as well?

Secondly, I believe there were a mix of Civil Police and MAARNG vehicles involved.

Please understand. I hold LEOs in the greatest respect. Even when I am the one pulled over. It is a necessary and underappreciated job. I do not consider you an enemy. It is my hope that the feeling is mutual.

I don't know about in your neck of the woods, but in AZ there are laws on the books (that are even used) saying that LEOs can call on armed Citizens to assist the Police in an emergency. The People are seen as a helping hand around here, rather than an amateur hindrance. This was a unique situation, in a city with certain laws and attitudes toward citizens, and if you will, I am (hopefully seen as) respectfully armchair quarterbacking those laws and attitudes. There are those of your bretheren who are not pure as the driven snow in regards to the rights of the citizen, but I respect and submit that the majority of you are. You are the good guys, I know that. But even the good guys make mistakes, and those do need to be highlighted so they are not repeated.

instinct said...

So, what mistakes were made TinCan? They asked people to stay at home to provide less targets for an assassin. I have not heard of anyone being arrested if they didn't do that.

All that I have heard, in fact, is a bunch of people crying "Look! There were bunches of cops in the streets!!! TEH FOURTH AMNDMENT!!11!"

It was a sucktastic situation that needed to be controlled since, as Six pointed out, these people were willing to kill and kill again - they WANTED to kill more. They weren't trying to escape, they were trying to regroup and have another confrontation. That is what they wanted.

What I keep hearing is "How dare the police try and keep civilians out of the line of fire. I have a right to walk into the middle of that shit storm if I want to!" Yet these are the same people that would be lawyering up if they were hurt by some police officers actions.

Yes, in the purity of the Constitution, you will never have an officer do anything but politely knock on the door and ask pretty please to have a look around.

So you tell me. You have individuals who have been building bombs, have used them on the population and on the police, and you suspect they have more plus unknown quantity of firearms. You have a pretty good idea of where they are and that area has a high civilian population. How are you going to protect them from the fight you know is going to happen? When you can give me an answer that doesn't involve moving them out of the area then I'll listen.

TinCan Assassin said...

Mistakes like this:


I'll be honest, I don't know what could have been done better, other than not treating the citizen as though he were the criminal. Your professional thoughts?

Old NFO said...

All I have to say is 200 rounds and they STILL didn't take them both out??? Somebody needs some range time, or needs to participate in some Simunitions training!

Six said...

I didn't make the comment about the SCOTUS ruling here Tango though I may have made it other places. Regardless. that is factual. SCOTUS has so ruled but my answer to your point is 'so what'? That has nothing to do with the priority hierarchy that police departments and individual officers live and die by. Yes, we do want to gather evidence and prepare a case but that is always after the fact. Our primary mission is to preserve life. There has been an awful lot of talk in the last few years about how uncaring and officious the police are. Anecdotally you can find any number of cases to prove your point. I can find at least an equal number to prove mine. It all boils down to your view of the police and what their mission is. If you believe they're an occupying army then there's little I can say to dispel your assumptions and views. If, like me, you believe that they are a stabilizing and ultimately positive presence then we have a common ground and the details can flesh themselves out as we discuss.

The fact is that there simply was no widespread forced home searches. There were a few but neither of us knows the facts surrounding those incidences. I've been there so I know what their thought processes were and can give a fair explanation for their actions. Remember the tactical situation and put yourself in the shoes of those cops on the scene. What would you do?

Tango said...

It needs not be widespread, but that one video alone shows their tactic and you and I both know that they didn't treat that one house that way while treating the others differently.

My belief is that the police are there to uphold the rights of the citizenry. If that means that they prevent criminals from removing those rights or punishing them after the fact (as in this case), then that's what their job should be. One cannot claim to protect the rights of the citizenry while (potentially) curtailing other rights.

In that situation, what would I do? I would tell people that it's a dangerous situation. The house needs to be searched and the occupants are recommended to leave. If they don't, then the danger that they are in is their own responsibility.

Regardless of the situation, to force people from their homes while putting guns in their faces and threatening them while screaming "I SAID KEEP EM UP!" is over the line between law enforcement and infringement of a right. They treated them as criminals.

You treat the situation differently than I. For you, it's "We have a job to do." and that's where the job description ends. For us, it's "You have a job to do, and it involves avoiding our rights."

Stringchesse said...

This was a textbook response in many ways, perfect, NOPE not hardly but given the situation the response was outstanding. The detractors on here and I agree on one point, the Mass. gun laws suck really bad. I'm not debating that point.
The only post-bombing casualties were LEO's, the bad guys were killed/captured, and life moves on.
The law uses a "reasonable" standard, the Ales Jones crowd is hardly reasonable by any measurement. It was a classic shit-sandwich, not enough response and innocents get hurt, it's the cops fault. Too much response and the cops are jackbooted thugs.
In this case I think they (law enforcement) walked the line very well and should be commended. From the FBI on down all tactical teams do an extensive debrief, they are often brutally honest, I can guarantee some of the same issues are being discussed by tactical teams and law enforcement in general. There are losers and dipshits in every vocation, law enforcement is no different. What we saw here was a well planned and executed response to an incredably complicated and dangerous critical incident.
I won't get into specifics, but I can assure you I've taken the oath to the Constitution many more times then most reading this, and I take it VERY seriously.

Six said...

Tango. "You treat the situation differently than I. For you, it's "We have a job to do." and that's where the job description ends. For us, it's "You have a job to do, and it involves avoiding our rights."

That's overly simplistic and a wild assumption. That is not where the job description ends, it's where it begins. I have never once in my career ever forgotten to take the Constitution into consideration when responding to a call. Never. I have even told supervisors and citizen complainants No, I will not do that because it would violate someone's civil rights. More than once and I never got fired nor had a resulting complaint upheld against me.

I guarantee you there were many discussions going on in those briefings concerning the limits of the search just for the civil penalties if nothing else. Along the lines of Well, if we do this we're gonna get the shit sued out of us. Stringcheese may have said it best above, the cops were walking a damn thin line and they did it the best they could with the tactical situation, public safety requirements and the Constitutional rights of the public in mind. Yes, they had a job to do and they did it with the minimum disruption possible given their understanding of the situation and the myriad of possible permutations and outcomes.
Perfect? No. Not even possible. Good. You bet.

Stringcheese said...

They need spell check on here, my spelling sucks.........so sue me.......
Now back to the debate....

Murphy's Law said...


With all regard to the Constitution that every police officer swears an oath to uphold, it's not the primary job of the police to protect your rights. The primary job of the police is to enforce the law and ensure public safety by maintaining order. Police officers don't get to pick and choose what they will or will not do when given lawful instructions. Please don't tell us what you would do IF you were a police officer because you haven't been there or done that. Instead, tell us why you don't do whatever you feel like doing at whatever job it is that you do. If your boss tells you to make something blue, do you get to just decide that you'd rather make it green? No, of course not. Likewise, police officers don't have the luxury of debating the constitution on the street in the middle of a fluid crisis--they do what they're told to do and they worry about it later. If you were the police officer next to me and you decided right then and there not to be a team player, your biggest worry would not be getting in trouble later--it'd be the rest of us kicking your ass back in the locker room for compromising the team and by extension the mission and putting us all in more danger. And if this means that you cover everyone with your weapon until you KNOW that they aren't a threat to you and your team members, then you'd better do just that. And FYI, anyone who says "I would not do that" is not suited for law enforcement. Period. People who get wishy-washy when the chips are down are the ones who get hurt or killed or cause their partners or innocent members of the public to get hurt or killed.

Six said...

TinCanAssasin (in the above comment with the link)

I understand your point but the problem with this video is the lack of context. I have no idea what preceded that contact. Did they have a tip from a neighbor that maybe the suspect was either seen in that house or perhaps those in the house were somehow involved? Did the FBI or an intelligence agency develop a lead that pointed them at that house? If so then the take down was actually pretty gentle considering the stakes. Note the door wasn't taken, no flashbangs were tossed and there was no dynamic entry. That leads me to suspect they were tipped off by someone but weren't sure enough to go full on 'kick the door and prone everyone out'. The cops must, MUST, investigate every tip or suspicion in such a potentially violent scene. Have to. And if the have to then they will take precautions lest they find that that house was actually either a den of conspirators or a hostage scenario. They can't just knock on the door of a suspect house and make polite inquiries. In this situation until you can tell the sheep from the goats everyone is a goat until everything is settled out.

Keep in mind I do not know any of this lacking the proper context but I can make safe assumptions from my own experience and knowledge. My point is that we also need to cut these guys a little slack and understand just how fluid and dangerous all this was. They did a great job in the midst of a chaotic and terrifying scene.

Six said...

We won't grade on spelling Stringcheese since the host also really sucks at it and relies heavily on spellcheck :)

TinCan Assassin said...

I can say "Fair enough" given the lack of context in the video.

I also see the potential for abuse (neighbor with a grudge/never let a crisis go to waste).

BUT given the environment they were working in, I do see your point. You're cops, not mind readers.

Excuse me, I need to polish the tinfoil in my hat. ;)

Six said...

There is a whole lot of room for abuse there TCA, no question. One of my biggest pet peeves was getting caught up in neighbor disputes. I got called out for the tiniest, most picayune things you can imagine all in the hope that I would take sides.

I used to tell folks that wanted me to choose their side. I know you want me to take your side and agree with you on all things. The problem is that everyone else wants exactly the same thing. That's why I approach each and every call being as uninvolved and neutral as a person can be and still be human. If you don't want me to be partisan against you please don't ask me to be partisan for you.

You, of all people, are hardly a tin foil hatter!!

Tango said...

Murphy, he specifically asked me what I would have done in that position. By your definition, if I would have said "I would not do that" re: The Danziger Bridge cops, then I wouldn't have been fit to be a cop?

"they do what they're told to do and they worry about it later." I won't go there with that statement... but I know another group of folks that used the same creed.

There are two types of orders that you can obey. Lawful or unlawful. Just because the CLEO says to do it doesn't make it lawful.

This may be the case here where it's legal. I'm not a cop, I'm not a prosecutor, and I'm not a judge.

The way you state it it seems like your first priority is to your CLEO, and if it doesn't inconvenience you, to the Constitution. It's my PERSONAL opinion that this is flat out wrong. This is garnered from your words, not anything else.

The part I find fault with is them putting entire cities on house arrest and forcing people out of their own homes at gunpoint.

Murphy's Law said...

Tha Danzinger Bridge incident was different. I'm not here to debate that one or any ones but this one. Building searches are pretty much cut-and-dried procedurally, and as I've now heard if from someone who was there doing the work, they weren't "ordering people out of their homes at gunpoint" but were, in fact, asking permission to search the residences. It was almost always granted (because most people were scared of the bomber and trust the police), and if it wasn't--and if they didn't suspect that duress was being applied, they didn't push the issue but just moved on. Likewise, they didn't break into homes where no one answered the door.

Most of these claims of "abuse" are coming now from people who weren't there and who had no idea what was or was not done. These people just assume that because the police were involved, that excessive force or coercion was automatically used. Those people, quite frankly, are dumbasses.

And yes, there may be a few sensational pictures out there on the internet, but you know what? Most media sources want sensational, and they toss aside hundreds or thousands of pictures of the normal and the mundane in favor of the one or two that, taken by themselves, appear to show something dramatic going on.

As to what is Lawful" vs. "unlawful", the standard recognized by the courts is and has always been that it's got to be pretty clearly and obviously unlawful before you get to start refusing to comply without risk of discipline or sanction. It's not like you get to mull over every single new situation and go "Well I dunno, Sarge...lemme think about this one for a few minutes." You got a job to do. Get it done. And if it's an emergency and you're not ACTUALLY HARMING ANYBODY, you do what you're told. If heads roll later, it won't be yours anyway. It'll be the heads of the higher-ups who made the call.

And for the record, a quick sweep of a house doesn't hurt anyone, nor does it hurt them if you tell them that they can't go walking down the street for a few hours while a search is going on. Inconvenient? Maybe. But that's not nearly as bad as letting a suicide bomber and mass murderer kill other people because you didn't want to risk bothering a few people sufficiently to ferret out his hiding place.

Six said...

I was hoping you'd have a contact who was there ML.

Six said...

I'm going to be out of pocket for a few hours but I will be back soonest.

Jay G said...

Hiya Six. Friend pointed me to this discussion. This happens to be, very nearly literally, my back yard.

Skin in the game: My little sister lives in Watertown. She was affected by the lockdown. Talked to her quite a bit on the phone - she was scared as hell (she's an attorney in Boston, mind you).

It seems to me that part of the issue is that some people are incapable of distinguishing between the actions of individual police officers and the decision to impose martial law.

On both sides of the issue.

You can support what the police were doing - and Boston PD was at least several orders of magnitude better than LAPD (Damning with faint praise I understand) in that matter - while condemning the decision made by the politicians and upper management.

Frankly, what happened in Boston scares the living bejeezus out of me, if for no other reason than the precedent it establishes.

Even if you think the danger warranted that level of lockdown (I happen to disagree; my dad cut his teeth as a MA State cop with the busing riots in the 1970s; if there was ever a time the city should have been shut down, that was it), the potential for abuse is mindboggling...

Especially when you consider that this is the SECOND time this year we in MA have been confined to our houses. We had a snowstorm this winter that caused the governor to decree that a $500 fine would be levied and/or jail time possible for anyone out on the road.

Two instances of martial law - and that's what it is - in one year will make a body pretty jumpy.

Cops have a tough job, no question about it. They're told to go look for this dangerous terrorist who has already killed people, may very well have bombs on his person, and may very well be planning another episode.

They shouldn't be put in a position to impinge on our rights in the interest of making their job easier or safer, though.

My $0.03 (adjusted for inflation).

Six said...

Thanks for the thoughts Jay G. This was a shit storm and no doubt about it. One we'll probably be debating around the net and that will be taught in Constitutional classes for decades.

I appreciate your opinions and candor. After all, you live there. It's your state, your communities and your police departments. I also stipulate the inherent dangers of any such actions.

I simply do not see any other practical way that particular CF could have been resolved in a manner consistent with both the public order and criminal apprehension requirements laid on the police. I'm willing to bet that this thing grew as the event escalated and the second perp went unarrested. As time went on the initial cordon was pushed back further and further. The crime scene encompassed miles of street and neighborhoods. Public panic, fueled by the media, became palpable, especially as the story unfolded and the lurid details of bombs, shots and officers killed and wounded became known. The government, from the Mayor to the Governor, was feeling the heat and almost certainly in over their heads. They reverted, as politicians are wont to do, to their default setting. Put it in the hands of the police and let them take the risks and the heat.

And the cops were stuck between a rock and a hard place. Act too forcefully and risk being likened to the Gestapo and perhaps incite an incident with an innocent. Act too timidly and risk further loss of civilian life and the accusations of dereliction of duty for the sake of officer safety.

They chose a middle ground. They risked the Nazi epithets and put out the shelter in place order and then they put on their big boy pants and went hunting for the suspect. The risk was very real and very dangerous. Bombs had already been set off and more could be fairly assumed. Likewise guns as one officer was dead with gunshot wounds and another fighting for his life. Yet they acted, by most accounts and for the most part, very reasonably. See Murphy's Law's comment above. Their actions were both reasonable and necessary if not completely palatable. Hell, the whole thing was a bloody, chaotic mess. That it ended the way it did is nothing short of miraculous.

I agree, this isn't a scene I want repeated. No one wants to lockdown an entire city and I promise you that includes the police department and all those cops. There is nothing that scares a police administrator into a pants wetting panic like sticking his neck out and making unpopular decisions. Police careers at the upper management level are made by not rocking the boat. Probably why I never rose past officer rank. And there is nothing that pisses off a street officer more than seeing the Constitutional rights of those they are sworn to serve and protect abused by anyone.

Thanks Jay G. I hope you'll continue in this discussion.

Anonymous said...

In my opinion, one of the primary differences between Mumbai and Boston was the quality of the emergency response, both from Law Enforcement and the general public. Several lives were saved by bystanders applying critical care to victims after the blast.

Many, if not most of those critical of the following searches don't understand the second and third order ramifications of not conducting warrantless searches. Additional threats to consider in uncleared locations would have unnecessary drawn off resources from the primary search.Throw in the distinct possibility that one of the citizens refusing to allow officers to search could have been instructed not to by the suspect in their home, as Six has said it was a big ol cluster.

Is this justification to temporarily suspend certain rights? I don't even like considering it, and it leave a a bad taste , but yes. There are no other options. Unconventional threats require unconventional response. Or we could just let people die. Which the thin blue line absolutely will not allow, and the citizenry will not accept.

We the people have to face these uncomfortable discussions and accept that the status quo of policing may not be capable of responding in a fashion that let's everyone feel comfortable, and find a solution. Which involves fighting what were effectively enemy combatants with what are , for all intents and purposes , war machines and military tactics. There simply are no other viable alternatives. It sucks, and we don't like it any more than the civilian in the home. But we absolutely will not let innocents die so , when there are no other options , hang the rules and devil take the hindmost. However, in this instance, no rules had to be broken.

But what happen a when its not just TWO crazies, but six, or fifteen? And they're not amateurs and ALL the bombs go off? And then they head to a school , or shopping center?

Bravo Zulu Boston. Let's pick this apart and learn from it.

Jennifer said...

Was there a better way to handle it? Yes, I believe so, but I don't know what it would have been. I also think it would have required getting all the people that might know together in a room for a planning session. There simply wasn't time for that. I don't like it. I think as time goes on we will see the mistakes that were made. But the fact of the matter is that it worked. It sets a terrible precedent, but it worked this time. This event needs to be scrutinized because it cannot be the new normal. Overall, these officers should be praised for a job well done. They made the best of an impossibly bad situation.

Groundhog said...

A number of LEO blogs I follow have recently expressed the same theme. They were surprised by the "Jack Booted Thug" accusations that flew in certain circles as the Boston events unfolded. I think it's actually immaterial what kind of job the cops did in this event. By that I mean, various public opinions were formed by what was seen and reported regardless of the outcome. Text book perfect or key stone comedy, it was perception that was reacted to. Not results.

I've been mulling this over lately and I was thinking about a post that said "Don't blame the Cops" because really, the perception of what went on is not the fault of the police. They are the visible force of a government that has become more draconian, more powerful, and less trusted over the last 20 years or so. I'm 48 so maybe people growing up in the 60's said the same thing. The cops are visible and it's who those who fear the government are taking out their frustrations and fears on.

Honestly, it's our own damn fault. We the people disengaged long ago and the few have been telling the .gov how they want things ruled. That "rule" has been to get tougher on crime. Oh, I forgot to mention that nearly everything is a crime now days. That gives one a lot of leeway.

As to the militarization? I'm not sure exactly where that has come from. I know SWAT got started to combat more heavily armed criminals. But now we have every podunk municipality with armored cars out there and police units that are hard to distinguish from the military. As our laws and politicians become more draconian, people will naturally fear the enforcers more.

I'll tell you what though, if 100,000 people in any large city marched on city hall after an event like that and said "no more!" things would likely change. Conversely, when the police are cheered, you will see more of the same because the people want it. "The People" still rule, we just don't realize it nor utilize it. The police are just an extension/part of the government we have chosen for ourselves and they function within the limits we allow.

Honestly, the cops probably did a pretty good job in this case. But, I still feared what I saw. On reason is having a media and a political class that say I, as a Christian, vet, gun owner and conservative, am the likely enemy. Oh how the media salivated at the thought that a "right wing extremist" could have been the culprit here. Another reason is what if it had been 100 guys in 50 large cities. I don't believe for a moment we would not have had martial law declared. The we would have had one of those crisis' that they don't like to let go to waist happen. I shudder to think what the aftermath of that scenario would be like.

I think that had something like this happened 20ish years ago, you would have had far fewer "thug" accusations thrown about. We were more unified then. I hope we will be again but I sure don't see us moving in the right direction for that at the moment. I hope this made some sense and I didn't ramble too much. I guess I'm looking more at the why than the what here.