I got upset on Twitter at a couple points during the great “Boston Lockdown,” mostly because I was just anxious about everything going on and and easy to upset. But, specifically, I got upset at posts I thought were implying that the scale of the police operation was some sort of misuse of police power.
Here are some things I observed on Friday:
Traffic continued all day on Route 9, a major but not limited-access highway at the end of my street.
I heard on the police scanner feeds that I found on the Internet officers escorting someone back to their home in Watertown to get medicine, and trying to figure out how close they could get a bus to pick up a disabled resident. I heard a request for less-than-lethal shotguns, which was interesting both because they weren’t just using lethal weapons, but also because they’ve gotten rid of the term “non-lethal” since that’s not always the case (as Boston police know from an incident a few years ago). At the end of the day (and I was probably listening to State Police channel separate from the FBI who actually made the arrest) I heard the caution they were taking to get the suspect in custody without anyone else getting hurt.
We received a reverse 911 call advising us to “shelter in place.” It seemed like the prudent thing to do. But it was not a threat, and I don’t think anyone who really needed to get any place couldn’t, except for a specific neighborhood in Watertown.
And, the bottom line is that no one else was hurt after the initial shoot-outs. And no one was arrested (that I’ve heard of).
As far as the enormous deployment of assets including SWAT and military response, well, that’s just how they do things. On a smaller scale, if you call to report a fire, you can’t ask them to only send one guy with a fire extinguisher; they’re going to send the engine and the ladder truck and probably police and EMS, and send them back when they’re not needed. And I’ve noticed that’s generally how emergency response agencies respond: deploy whatever assets you can just in case you need them. The alternative, I think, is to expect Andy Griffith backed up by Opie as all Mayberry needs to stay safe. But I don’t think that if this situation was, say, left to only actual Watertown officers to respond in their cruisers with old fashioned six shooters it would have had as good an outcome.
I’m not an anarchist. One of the great things about living in a democracy is that the police are here to protect us. And, it is a bit scary that to do so, they need to be able to respond with enough force that, if they misuse it, could take away our rights. I can think of cases, like the pepper spray incident during Occupy Oakland, or the NYPD’s treatment of protesters during the RNC, where, as a citizen of a democracy, I have some concern. But this was not one of those cases, and we should judge the police by their actions, not by what gear they come prepared with. This was exactly the situation we need strong law enforcement for and they deserve credit for a job well done.