Transcript: Testimony of Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis on the Boston Marathon bombings before the House Committee on Homeland Security – May 9, 2013

Partial transcript of Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis’s testimony on the Boston Marathon bombings before the House Committee on Homeland Security on May 9, 2013:

…Thank you for inviting me here today to discuss the tragedy that occurred in Boston on Patriot’s Day when two cowardly brothers laid siege to one of Massachusetts’s most venerated traditions – the Boston Marathon.

I’m here as a Commissioner of the Boston Police Department but I also speak on behalf of Mayor Thomas Menino, the mayor’s emergency management staff, and law enforcement from across the state and across the nation when I describe our cooperative response to these attacks and what they did to our community.

I’d like to point to the four people who were killed in this attack. They are indicative of who was there at that event that day.

We have 8-year-old Martin Richard, who was there with his mother and sister, and his father had just run by completing the marathon when the blast went off.

We have a Boston University graduate student Lu Lingzi. She was finishing her studies and was there with friends right next to Martin when that bomb went off.

We have a restaurant manager, 29-year-old Krystle Campbell, who stood with her friends and was at the finish line when the first explosion occurred and lost her life there.

And a few days later, we have officer Sean Collier, who was sitting in his cruiser in Cambridge when these two brothers came up and assassinated him. A young man that had committed his life to law enforcement…

These individuals turned the city upside down, and the impact on Boston will last for years. The Boston Marathon will come back stronger next year but it will never happen again without the memory of this tragic event.

But out of that tragedy, out of that terrible experience, comes an enormous amount of strength on the part of the community.

It was alluded to earlier in conversations but the medical people who staffed the tents at the end of the finish line – they were there to treat people with blisters and exhaustion, and instead they ended up being thrown into a battlefield scenario, treating injuries that were horrendous. If it wasn’t for the actions of my police officers, firefighters, EMS people who responded to the scene and those medical people from the tents that ran down the street, the death toll would be much higher.

And so that kind of response is indicative of what happened in the city of Boston. I think it underlies this whole conversation about “Boston Strong”. And it involved the BAA [Boston Athletic Association] who runs the event; it involved spectators, businesses in the downtown area, especially in the Back Bay area, that were shut down for over a week because of the evidence processing that had to happen. The amount of charitable giving that occurred there, the patience that people had, was spectacular.

The cities and residents of Boston and Cambridge and Watertown cooperated with us when the mayor and governor made the decision to shut the city down. That was the right decision to make based on the information that we had at 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. that morning. And the residents fully cooperated, which was astounding.

Boston is a stronger city because of this and I hope that the people who commit these atrocious acts understand that there’s a futility in their efforts. The city is back on its feet. We’ll never forget the people that you see to my left. But I will tell you that they had no effect on the city of Boston except to make us a stronger community.

One of the things that has been much discussed here is the information sharing that occurred before and after this incident. And I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the cooperation of the FBI, the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the Massachusetts State Police, and all of the help that they gave us when this happened.

In the seconds after I was notified of this, the very first phone call I made was to Rick DesLauriers, the SAC [Special Agent in Charge] of the FBI in Boston. Him and Tim Alben, the Colonel of the State Police, were my go-to people because we needed SWAT assets and EOD assets in the downtown, expecting that further incidents would happen. They responded immediately and gave us all the equipments available in Massachusetts to respond to this thing. They were literally there within 30 minutes. The first victims were evacuated within 22 minutes. And within 30 minutes, we had every SWAT team in the Commonwealth either on site or on the way to Ring Road, which is where we had our first command post.

The information sharing that we did beforehand to prepare for the marathon was good. We certainly need to look at everything we did. The Senator’s comments are well taken. Everything that we did has to be reviewed so that we make sure that this does not happen again. We’re in the process of doing that. But until all of the facts are on the table, it’s hard to say what we could have done differently, but I’m satisfied with the preparation that we put in place.

And after 9/11, I met with Director Mueller from the FBI with several police chiefs just two or three days after the incident, and he committed to including us in the JTTFs and he’s been good to his words. This is not a perfect process but we are real members of that organization. I have three detectives and a sergeant that are at the JTTF everyday and working very closely with the bureau.

We certainly need to enlist the community better. And the points about identifying radical extremism and ferreting that out, the first thing that we need to do is go to the community. We need to explain to the community that they have a responsibility to their community and to their nation and to what’s right to report the kind of activity that these brothers were involved in prior to the incident. And I think that’s the first line of defense. There’s going to be a lot of conversations about cameras and other technical means. There’s no technical means that you can point to. There’s no computer that’s going to spit out a terrorist’s name. It’s the community being involved in the conversation and being appropriately open to communicating with law enforcement when something awry is identified. That really needs to happen, and so that should be our first step.

Do we have to look at cameras? Sure we do. Do we have to look at more armed guards? Do we have to look at utilizing the assets that the Department of Homeland Security and the federal government have provided us. We do have to do that and it’s really important. The training that you alluded to, Mr. Chairman, extremely important. It made all the difference in the world in our response here. People are alive today because of urban shield and the terrorism training that the Department of Homeland Security provided to us. There is no doubt about that, and further investments need to be made in those things.

Moving forward, the help of the federal government was critical to our response here. We need to look at how it happened and why it happened, and we need to do everything we can to prevent it. But the truth of the matter is nobody bats .1000, and I think as a nation, we need to come to terms with that and do everything we can to prevent it but also recognize that fusion centers and intelligence analysis and joint terrorism task forces are part of our future.

Boston is an international city, and we derive an enormous benefit from people who come to Boston for school and for hospital care and just to be part of our community. But the world is a dangerous place and I think we need to recognize that and be prepared for it.

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