“We got him! Thank God, we got him!”
With those words late Friday night, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino captured the spirit of just about everyone in Greater Boston, and really across the nation, upon the capture of accused Boston Marathon bombing terrorist Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in Watertown.
And after the intense, exhaustive manhunt that brought a virtual lockdown of Boston and its immediate — and sent ripple effects up the silent commuter rail lines to Gloucester and Cape Ann — all of the police officers, SWAT teams and National Guard personnel, including police personnel deployed from Gloucester and Cape Ann’s towns as part of two different regional response teams finally had reason to cheer and be cheered.
But Menino’s “We got him” line, trumpeted acoss the top of the Times’ Saturday morning front page, speaks to a much broader “we” than to the thousands of law enforcement personnel who spent days combing the chilling Marathon bombing scene, then — after a surreal chase and firefight in a crowded Watertown neighborhood — going door-to-door in their search for the suspect.
Despite all of their efforts, let us remember that — just when Friday’s all-day manhunt seemed to be coming up empty, just as officials lifted the “shelter in place” order and the MBTA service shutdown — it was a simple call from a Watertown resident, a call from a man who had been shut in all day, then stepped outside and notice that someone had tampered with his shrink-wrapped boat, that finally led police to their man.
We should never forget that last Monday’s horrific terrorist attacks that were clearly aimed at causing maximum harm not to the world’s elite runners, who passed the finish line hours before the bombings, but to dedicated New Englanders and other Americans who ran for the sport of it, and who were watching their family members, friends and neighbors finish in a day of personal triumph.
Likewise, we can and should never forget that, in the end, it was rank-and-file Bostonians, New Englanders and especially a guy living in the heart of a Watertown neighborhood who helped track down these vicious killers, responding with countless tips after the FBI reached out for help with a video and photos showing the suspects, and a phone call that finally led police to the suspect when he was hiding in a boat stored behind a neighborhood home.
For all the understandable relief and downright exhilaration we all felt Friday night, we must remember that there are many questions still to be answered regarding these attacks, most notably how and why. And there are many lessons to be learned as well, especially regarding complacency and vigilance.
But one of the most important lessons shining throughout this saga is the importance of a cooperative spirit between a community and its police force. Indeed, considering Watertown and other residents’ cooperation with an unprecedented, large-scale “shelter in place” order, and the tip that led to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s capture, this may be the ultimate example of what community policing can do.
That can mean the current stepped-up Gloucester community policing efforts launched by first-year-chief Leonard Campanello, who drew a full class for the department’s new citizens police academy last month. It can also mean community police education efforts, like Thursday’s planned social host law workshop hosted by the GPD and other groups at the Rose Baker Senior Center. And it can include outreach like the Gloucester School District’s proposal for a school resources officer to build more positive interaction with Gloucester High students beginning next fall.
But true community policing can really be summed up in just a few words: a shared respect between police and residents, and one of community policing projects’ trademark lines: “If you see something, say something.”
Thank God, in this case, enough people did.