Three years after the Boston Marathon bombing, the city’s police commissioner and a delegation of senior Massachusetts law enforcement officials traveled to Israel to train and learn from the country’s most elite counter-terrorism experts.
Sponsored by the ADL, the 14 officers, who arrived on Monday for one week, represent state, federal and local law enforcement, including campus police chiefs from MIT, Northeastern University and Suffolk University.
“We’ve been running local [delegation] trips to Israel for many years to provide American law enforcement with access to top Israeli police officials, so they can learn and share techniques in fighting terrorism,” said Robert Trestan, director of the ADL’s Boston office on Thursday.
Boston Police Commissioner William Evans, who ran in the 2013 marathon, and then led the exhaustive eight-day ground operation after two terrorist siblings detonated two pressure-cooker bombs that killed three and wounded dozens, said the visit has been insightful.
“I always heard about how well Israel’s police deal with terrorism, and to come and see their system and learn about their techniques – how they train the officers – I was pretty impressed,” said Evans, who was the top uniformed Boston officer during the April 15 marathon attack.
“For me, with the Boston Marathon, and terrorism coming to America recently, I’m learning quite a lot.”
Evans, who became commissioner in November of 2013, and will be portrayed in the upcoming film starring Mark Wahlberg, Patriots Day, about the incident, noted that the search for the killers resulted in a complete shutdown of the city for over a week.
“I had just finished that race an hour before, and to return to Boylston Street to see the destruction is something that I still can’t believe happened in Boston,” he said. “Unfortunately, I heard about these terrorist bombings too much in Israel and other places around the world, but to see the damage and see those young bodies lying on the street is something I’ll never forget.”
Evans said he discussed his handling of the protracted operation with top Israeli police officials, noting that he was most taken by how quickly and efficiently officers in this country deal with similar attacks.
“We were talking about how [Boston] shut down at least 20 blocks for eight days after that bombing, whereas the Israeli Police say they have everything checked out in an hour-and-a-half or two hours, and life gets right back to normal,” he said.
“Obviously, that’s quite a comparison compared to what we do, so we talked about how they process a scene so quickly and get it back [to normal]. We had that investigation going on for five days before we captured them, and [the city] still didn’t open for three more days, so it’s a whole different style of returning to normalcy. We never had to deal with anything like that.”
Noting Israel’s unparalleled expertise in counter-terrorism after decades of ongoing attacks, Evans said he is most impressed by the level of police efficiency, and the public’s ability to resume normalcy.
“I don’t think our city has ever gotten back to normal, and still is living with the tragedy that happened that day,” he lamented. “And the movie coming out next week will sort of bring it back into a lot of people’s memories, but I think Boston will always be known for that tragic day in 2013.”
Evans added that he worked closely with Wahlberg, a Boston native, and the production team involved with Patriots Day, to ensure accuracy, as well as respect for the many victims of the bombings.
“We made sure they respect the city and the families [effected],” he said. “We didn’t want them to be offended by the film. And we wanted Mark to really express the ‘Boston Strong’ [element], and how the city was resilient and everyone came together.”
Moreover, Evans, who has seen an advanced screening and called it well done, said he did not want the carnage depicted in the film to glorify violence.
In the meantime, he said he and the delegation are thoroughly enjoying their visit to Israel, and are impressed by the country’s counter-terrorism methods, which he deemed among the best in the world.
“Israel is without a doubt one of the best,” he said. “Just how they process these [terror] scenes so quickly and get them back to normal – the surveillance, the behavioral science in watching people as they pass checkpoints. Unfortunately, the history and the tragedies here have made them what people look for, and that is the model to prevent terrorism.”
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, who advised the group, said the Boston ADL delegation is one of over 200 international senior law enforcement delegations that train in Israel annually as part of the Israeli Police Foreign Affairs Deportment, headed by Commander Diane Eldad-Sheetrit.
“The delegations come to learn, share and transfer information on terrorism, organized crime, and other criminal issues,” said Rosenfeld.
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