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Boston’s Top Cop: Boost Security, But Avoid ‘Police State’

Filed by KOSU News in US News.
May 9, 2013

“Soft targets” such as the Boston Marathon and other public events need to be made more secure from terrorist attacks, Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis told Congress on Thursday.

But in testimony prepared for the first hearing into the April 15 bombings that killed three people and wounded more than 250, Davis added:

“This need, however, must be balanced against the protection of our Constitutional liberties. I do not endorse actions that move Boston and our nation into a police state mentality, with surveillance cameras attached to every light pole in the city. We do not, and cannot live in a protective enclosure because of the actions of extremists who seek to disrupt our way of life.”

According to Davis:

– “In the future we will review the need to deploy more assets including technology, cameras, undercover officers and specialized units. We will continue to enhance preparedness training for all of our officers to protect these large events.”

– “My police career has been built on the concept of community policing that encourages our officers to get out of cars, talk with people and solve problems in partnership with the community. This absolutely works. The community played a critical role in this fight against terrorism. In Watertown, [Mass.] despite heavy police presence for more than 12 hours, and a house by house search in a twenty block perimeter for one of the two suspects, it was the critical observation of a neighbor that something was amiss in his backyard that led to the capture of one of the bombers. In Boston, it was the cooperation of the owners of the Forum Restaurant whose video cameras led to the identification of the two terrorists. It was the cooperation of the people of Boston, Watertown, and several other neighboring communities who voluntarily assisted our police departments by staying indoors during this protracted manhunt that led to the safe resolution of the capture.”

– “Clearly, we can and must do more. I come before you today to ask for continued investments in infrastructure that would aid in our policing efforts. In the case of the Boston Marathon bombings, we had to rely almost exclusively on the support of our business partners to provide critical video surveillance along the finish line. The information helped us identify and catch these two terrorists. I strongly support the enhanced ability to monitor public places. …

“These efforts are not intended to chill or stifle free speech, but rather to protect the integrity and freedom of that speech and to protect the rights of victims and suspects alike.”

– “I also encourage the federal government to continue the important funding for the hiring of police officers as well as intelligence analysts, who are needed for both the prevention of further crimes as well as to respond to incidents such as this one.”

– “Additionally, law enforcement needs secure radio bandwidth in a public safety spectrum dedicated exclusively to public safety use. We cannot rely on commercial carriers for public safety emergency communications.”

The House Committee on Homeland Security is webcasting its hearing and has posted the statements from Davis and other witnesses here. [Copyright 2013 NPR]

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