In the after-glow of last Friday’s dramatic Watertown capture of suspected Marathon bombing terrorist Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, it was with a source of pride that we also recognized the roles played by police and medical personnel from our area as well — with Gloucester K9 unit officer Chris Genovese and his dog Mako linking with the Northeaster Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council, and several officers and medics from Rockport, Manchester and Essex deployed to Watertown with the Cape Ann Emergency Response Team.
But while handing out deserved kudos to those who took part, it’s also important that chiefs and town officials also take heed of some of the red flags cited by Cape Ann team leader and Rockport Lt. Mark Schmink in the final page of his “after-action” report.
For while our local enforcement teams will hopefully never have to respond to another door-to-door search for a terrorist on the run, the “improvements needed” for future deployments, as noted by Schmink, can easily come into play during a storm or other emergency response here as well.
For all that went right — leading right up to Tsarnaev’s capture —the Cape Ann team also encountered:
A fleet that included a used and modified CATA bus that, during the deployment, had one of its rusty doors spring open while in transit at the scene, then barely sputtered its way back to the Rockport Police Station.
Older, excessively heavy body armor that needs modernization — as in replacement.
A lack of high-tech global positioning devices — not exactly a minor problem when zeroing in on a position during a manhunt.
A lack of effective communications equipment, needed when officers were out of visual or verbal range of other team members.
Some of this needed equipment might be seen as luxuries – but they’re not. Indeed, when the emergency response team is looking to move people and equipment during a dangerous Cape Ann storm, it’s essential that these officers have communications and map locator equipment that’s top of the line. And when it comes to body armor, let’s not forget that Gloucester alone has had two instances in two years of armed individuals holed up inside houses in crowded neighborhoods; incidents that required a SWAT team response.
Yes, these emergency troops can draw funding through state and federal grants. And, yes, elite team members have coughed up their own cash to cover some costs in the past.
But it’s time that our towns kicked in some added budget dollars to give these officers the equipment they truly need — and, in the process, show them the proud show of support they deserve.