For us and so many others, it’s difficult to believe it’s been almost a decade.
On April 15, 2013, eight years ago today, two bombs ripped through crowds of spectators and athletes at the Boston Marathon. The explosions took the lives of three people, the youngest of whom was 8-year-old Martin Richard. Many families were left grieving or traumatized, and countless others were injured physically and emotionally forever.
That terrible day is etched in our minds and the minds of so many. On that April 15, we both had homeland and national security responsibilities — one as a leader of the Boston Police Department, the other as a national security official at the White House.
Those first hours seemed like an eternity, culminating in the murder of an MIT campus police officer and the wounding of a Boston Police officer, who would succumb to his injuries nearly a year later. There was an unprecedented city-wide lockdown, the death of one bomber, and ultimately, the capture of the other.
This undated photo provided by Bill Richard shows his son, Martin Richard, in Boston. Martin Richard, 8, was among the at least three people killed in the explosions at the finish line of the Boston Marathon Monday, April 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Bill Richard) (Photo: AP)
But, there was eventually solace too. Even as a city mourned its losses, a community came together in a fashion not seen previously, culminating with #BostonStrong trending on social media and a country united behind a unified city.
Police, community are in it together
As we reflect today, we continue to see mass murders at schools, workplaces and public events. The term “active shooter” has, unfortunately, become a part of our children’s vocabularies. This past year has been especially difficult, marred by a pandemic, tensions between police and communities over racial and social injustice, and attacks on our Capitol.
One article alone cannot begin to properly address the numerous issues that are affecting communities today, particularly in underserved communities of color. We support our law enforcement colleagues and know the vast majority of them are dedicated professionals. We also know injustice exists — and we, too, are horrified by the wrongful deaths of many.
However, we do believe that our Boston and national experience can at least provide a basis for building trust in the years ahead — and as we reflect on how we came together after April 15, 2013, our experience prompts us to ask that police departments and communities across the country consider the following:
1. Accept that policing reform and public safety are inextricably linked, and that if the police cannot earn the trust of the community, it will make all of us less safe.
During the darkest periods of the manhunt for the Boston Marathon bombers, a region-wide search was possible because citizens respected a lockdown order. The surviving bomber was ultimately captured because a concerned citizen called the police after noticing something suspicious. The bomber was captured alive. The law enforcement authorities presented their evidence, which was weighed by a jury of citizens, resulting in a conviction. This allowed the community some small amount of closure by his conviction.
2. Trust is cultivated over many years and it cannot be forced.
In Boston in the early 2010s, as part of the Boston Police Department, we rolled out a program to spark conversations with those in the community who otherwise would have never approached a police officer. We knew then that good community relations are the foundation of fair and equitable policing. This outreach was a good start, but did not go far enough to engage with those most impacted by policing in our neighborhoods.
A man lies on the ground as police officers react to a second explosion at the finish line of the Boston Marathon in Boston, Monday, April 15, 2013. (Photo: John Tlumacki, AP)
3. Law enforcement leaders must engage on the streets with their harshest critics, listening and sharing as events transpire in the community.
In Boston, our outreach efforts included exchanging cell phone numbers with community leaders who very publicly criticized our leadership and our responses. Although we failed often in making persuasive arguments to change minds on many issues, we had respectful conversations and learned to see a view from each other’s perspective. Recently, as tensions rose in the community, one of those community leaders reached out requesting that we put our thoughts together on how to heal the divide.
4. Include the community in training and preparedness activities.
In the moments after the second bomb went off, the casualty area swarmed with EMTs, police and firefighters. These groups had planned for critical events together, practiced together and were used to working alongside each other. Our community joined us in those efforts.
Carlos Arredondo, who originally came to the U.S. illegally and lost a son who had been serving in the Iraq War, immediately sprinted into action. He saw Jeff Bauman, who later lost both of his legs. He helped stem the blood flow and whisked Jeff to safety.
Boston EMT Paul Mitchell, left, and bystander Carlos Arredondo (in cowboy hat) push Jeff Bauman in a wheelchair after he was injured in one of two explosions near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Bauman and his three rescuers became one of the most powerful symbols of Boston's resilience after the April 15, 2013, attacks. (Photo: Charles Krupa, AP)
Carlos and dozens of other community members are responsible for saving many lives that day. First aid and hemorrhage control should be taught in our high schools to all students in an attempt to develop self-reliance and resiliency during a critical event.
5) Orient police toward peace, against violence and towards a shared vision of community-involved policing.
Good policing is as much about caretaking as it is apprehending criminals.
Police and elected officials need to convene listening and learning sessions to identify how the community wants to be policed. Those sessions should in turn include educating the community on police operations. Police need to get out of guardrooms and cars and meet the community in circumstances that do not involve a stressful, confusing 911 call.
Police leaders often get out of their departments and hear from academics and other experts to help form ideas on better policing methods. These opportunities and this information must be shared with the front-line officers most responsible for implementing them. Often, officers are told what to do without engaging them in why they should do it. All efforts should be taken to jointly police our communities and not occupy them.
Martin Richard would be 16 this year. He would most likely be asking his parents for driving lessons. He would have continued to make the world and the people around him better. As we seek to heal and move forward from the events of the past eight years, we believe that the handbook for success is written with the guiding principles Martin shared with the world in a photo taken before his tragic death: “No More Hurting People. Peace.”
Daniel Linskey is a managing director in Kroll’s Security Risk Management practice, head of the Boston office, and a fellow at the Kroll Institute. He is the former superintendent-in-chief of the Boston Police Department.
Jordan Strauss is a managing director in the Business Intelligence and Investigations practice of Kroll, and a Kroll Institute Fellow, based in the Philadelphia office. He has worked as director for incident management at the White House National Security Council Staff, and as director of preparedness and response at the Justice Department.
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