It has now been more than a week since the dramatic event that came at the end of the annual Boston Marathon. We now know who committed this act and that it was well-planned, but amateurish since the perpetrators had no exit plan.
It was also a display of incredible heroism on the part of the runners who had already finished or those close to finishing, who ran toward to carnage rather than away from it, plus the medical teams and ordinary citizens.
What concerns me the most is the media coverage and what many would call an overreaction by law enforcement.
Indeed, it was non-stop coverage on the part of every media outlet in the country, from the cable giants CNN, FOX and MSNBC and the three major networks and probably every local news outlet from Boston to California. One writer, Andrew O'Hehir, commented that there was “a massive and disheartening national freakout, with pundits, politicians, major news outlets and the self-appointed sleuths of the Internet – in fact, nearly everyone besides those directly affected by the attack – heaping disgrace upon themselves.” The conservative Boston Post posted photos of two men who they claimed the FBI had identified as the bombers but it was not true (imagine how these two have felt!). The far right went crazy, as usual, with Alex Jones leading the way by calling this a “government conspiracy.”
The men responsible were eventually identified as Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, two brothers 28 and 19 years old respectively, both immigrants from Chechnya. The former was killed in a massive shootout with the police in the Boston suburb of Watertown. The latter escaped with serious injuries and was found hiding in a boat in someone’s backyard. He was taken to a hospital where he has been charged with multiple crimes.
As for the response by law enforcement, first the entire city of Boston was shut down – all forms of transportation (subways, buses, trains and even Logan Airport where planes were prohibited from leaving. There must have been several thousand cops in Watertown alone – probably more cops than citizens! (I thought I heard someone mention there were 5,000 or more cops in the area.) Not to mention National Guard Troops and local SWAT teams.
Why so many police?
One thing I have learned over the years is that since police work is generally quite boring (most cops never even fire their weapon) and uneventful that when there is something big going on (such as an officer chasing a suspect) cops from all over the city will tend to rush over to see what is going on and possibly be in on the capture of the suspect. I recall going on a ride-along with a police officer who was a student of mine and we had a call of a burglary suspect who was still at large in a fairly nice neighborhood and as we sat there in a sort of standby mode I noticed that dozens of cop cars kept driving by. I asked him what was going on and he said that this normally happens and he noticed that cops from almost every sector of the city (some several miles from the scene) were in the area and that also all police radio frequencies (one for each sector) were shut down and the one in our area was the only one active. He told me many cops were anxious to be able to make the arrest. After the guy was captured we started taking calls that had been “backed up” by the dispatcher and one was a woman who called about a man who tried to break into her apartment (perhaps to rape her) and the call came in about an hour earlier!
Obviously a burglary suspect on the run in a neighborhood is a far cry from two people considered armed and quite dangerous (with explosives attached). Still, as I followed the story on the TV news channels I wondered how many crimes were being committed in other parts of Boston while most cops were in Watertown. Were police patrolling other areas of the city?
I am also thinking about how often these things happen in other countries almost daily. “Welcome to our world” many are probably saying!