Firearms conference hears from Boston bombings police chief

Officers at a firearms conference hosted by the College have been given a first-hand account of the Boston bombings which killed three and injured more than 250.For the first time American police officers faced bombs being thrown at them and at the same time being shot at.

Edward Deveau, Chief of Watertown Police Department in Boston, USA, spoke about a shootout between his officers and two suspects just four days after the bombings. Mr Deveau said the suspects had an 'arsenal of guns' and hundreds of shots were fired.

The conference, attended by more than 160 delegates, was used to update police firearms units on the latest lessons learned and to share best practice. The three-day event, held in Ryton, attracted speakers who had investigated some of the most high-profile police firearms incidents in the world last year.

Mr Deveau spoke for around two hours about how officers responded to the Boston bombings. In April last year two pressure cooker bombs exploded during the Boston Marathon.

Speaking about the police operation just after the bombs exploded, Mr Deveau said:

"The Boston Police Department did a great job securing the crime scene within minutes of the second explosion. They used a 'slash and tag system' where officers walked the contained area where so many items had been abandoned by the fleeing spectators. Officers slashed open these items, did a quick search and tagged any items that looked suspicious. The bomb squad then would do a more detailed search of any items tagged."

Mr Deveau then spoke about how his officers got caught up in one of the most brutal gun battles ever faced by modern day American officers. The suspects were found and confronted by officers in Watertown, Massachusetts. An eight-and-a-half minute battle broke out which saw police targeted with three pipe bombs, one pressure cooker and hundreds of rounds of bullets.

Mr Deveau said:

"My officers withstood the fire storm and acted heroically. Training and equipment helped them greatly, but they also reacted by thinking outside the box and beyond their training - using their vehicle as a diversion and continuing to fight when they run out of ammo.

"The motto of course became, 'No matter the circumstances, never, never, never give up'."

As police chief, Mr Deveau was the public face for the community and told delegates at the conference: "A good leader looks calmer and calmer as things get more intense."

The presentation by Mr Deveau left a lasting impression on delegates, some of whom wrote to him afterwards. Their comments included:

"My colleagues and I found the presentation, informative, yet extremely moving. You must be very proud of your officers, as we are, and their dedication to the department and to you as the chief is quite humbling. You and your staff are an inspiration and I will brief fellow colleagues on the incident and lessons learned."

"The comments we have had are outstanding about your presentation. I have to say that in 38 years of policing I have never attended a conference that was so well-received and had such an impact."

"For quite a hardened bunch. you had them close to tears a number of times. I'm sure you know what a hard audience cops can be. I felt it was a truly excellent presentation."

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