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Braintree police chief reflects on the Watertown manhunt

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  April 24, 2013 12:05 PM

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Shortly after last week's shootout in Watertown involving two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing, Braintree police were called to the scene.

Police from the South Shore town had been helping out all week, giving support and providing backup to the state’s capital with police dogs and patrol officers.

Yet all of that came to a head as three Braintree SWAT members and the chief himself packed up for a long day on Friday morning searching Watertown’s streets.

With a few days to reflect since then, Braintree Police Chief Russell Jenkins said he is proud of the work done during those harrowing hours on Friday, and recounts with a sense of awe and accomplishment how a small South Shore community contributed to tracking down the suspects behind the deadly Marathon attack.

Boston Globe: Who was a part of the search team in Watertown looking for the Marathon suspects?

Chief Russ Jenkins: … We had members of our SWAT team were down there actively searching for the suspect…all three [of the SWAT members] were in Watertown early Friday morning when the pursuit first began.

We got called shortly after the chase and carjacking and shootout, and our three SWAT officers were assigned to search a particular area near the shooting, house to house.

BG: Have you ever been part of an effort this big, with so many agencies?

RJ: No, I have not. This is the largest. Prior to this, the largest one was when there was a shooting in Woburn…a jewerly store robbery and an officer was shot…that was a pretty intensive search.

But this thing in Watertown was by far a much greater effort. Far more officers responded. We had a SWAT team from Martha’s Vineyard show up, Seekonk, Nashua, Manchester, we had probably 15 SWAT teams respond. We had hundreds of police officers respond. It was a tremendous coordination effort under way …

BG: What did the Braintree officers do in particular?

RJ: We had a perimeter set up, [the] interior was gridded off, search segments were assigned, and each team given assignments house to house, street to street.

BG: What was going through your mind? Were you thinking about what had led up to this, the larger picture, or were you more focused on the job at hand?

RJ: It was the job at hand. We had a mission to complete and it was a clear mission. My job is to support the people on the field. I’m at the command post and [am] supporting the people on the field.

They searched hundreds of homes; they were going into the homes. People were concerned, we knock on the door and they say, ‘Is he here?’ ‘No he’s not,’ but they were checking anyway…

It was grueling work to do this, mentally, physically. We’re just trying to support them, get additional resources to them at the same time.

[And we’re] cognizant of the fact that in an extended search, they need to sit down and rest. Some are going from ... Thursday and others 2 a.m. Friday morning. We didn’t know when it was going to end. We needed to stand guys down and bring in fresh bodies. We were working on things like that.

BG: Where were you when the suspect was located?

RJ: We had a search area to deal with, we dealt with it, and we were on the road heading home when the suspect was located in that boat. We were not in the city when he was located.

BG: Has anyone come up to you and thanked you? What’s been the reaction of the community?

RJ: Mayor Sullivan did a very nice recognition this morning at his business breakfast [on Tuesday]. He had all the officers who were there in attendance and he called us up to recognize [us].

Not a lot of people know you’re involved in these teams. They come up to you and assume you’re there and thank you for your efforts. Those who know nothing about it thank you for being a police officer.

[People have] been thankful. The police are doing what they were doing and did what they did in Boston all week and in Watertown on Friday. They are very thankful, there has been a lot of that.

BG: Talk about the coordination. How did all these agencies work together?

RJ: [Our local police agencies have] a long relationship with Boston police dating to 2004 for the [Democratic National Convention], and we’ve gone since there for the 2004 [Red Sox] series, Super Bowls, Celtics, Bruins. … the lines of communication are very open.

We know each other, we’ve worked together, we’ve had meetings together. The familiarity, we have a process in place and have a staged [area] so our team goes to a central location and [we] bus ourselves into Boston. Because of our past relationships and past activities, this was an easy mobilization to make…

BG: How about for you personally? How does it feel to have been part of this effort?

RJ: It's very rewarding … We train so hard to do this for so long, and all the relationships we’ve made have all paid off. It was a team effort, a coordinated effort, and a successful effort, so I’m very happy about that.

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