Sunday April 21, 2013

PITTSFIELD -- Today is a good day to be a cop.

That is largely the reaction from folks inside and outside the law enforcement community following the complex and successful search for the suspects in the bombing of the Boston Marathon.

"Law enforcement was given a very positive image by the people in Boston who did an outstanding job and who showed total professionalism," noted Berkshire County District Attorney David Capeless. "They did a thoughtful, deliberate job of ensuring the public safety at the same time they were solving some very serious crimes."

Dina Locke of Pittsfield, a food server at the Hot Dog Ranch, said she watched the situation closely for two reasons: She is from Colorado, so the bombing brought back feelings related to the massacres in Columbine and Aurora.

A SWAT team enters a home in Watertown on Friday during the search for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. During the manhunt many people were glued to their smartphones to
A SWAT team enters a home in Watertown on Friday during the search for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. During the manhunt many people were glued to their smartphones to keep up with the latest news. (Associated Press)
And as a mother of a 2-year-old, she was naturally concerned.

So Locke was watching the news after suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was arrested and the phalanx of police were leaving the neighborhood while people lined the streets and applauded them for their efforts.

"It still brings tears to my eyes," she said. "I thought it was great. I don't think anybody expected them to solve it so quickly."

Jim Nichols was tending bar at Friends Grill Friday night when Tsarnaev was taken into custody.

"Before that, everybody was listening to music and there was some dancing, but when [the police] were closing in, everything stopped and they were watching it," he said. "Everyone was real interested. And when they got him, quite a few people were cheering -- it was kind of like watching a hockey game."

North Adams Police Sgt. James Foley said the various law-enforcement agencies working around the clock since Monday's bombing deserved the applause.

"They did what they had to do to capture this person. I think they did great," he said. "Law enforcement is a very complex job and usually people don't like it when we show up. It's difficult for the public to understand what police have to do and that ultimately we're here to help people."

Foley agreed that recent events have added some polish to the public's perception of law enforcement.

"I'm proud of the guys that participated in that manhunt and showed what it means to be a police officer," he said.

Lenox Police Officer Sean Ward was impressed at the logistics of carrying off a citywide shutdown and manhunt while working seamlessly with such a wide range of law enforcement and government agencies.

"The logistics and communications had to be a very big challenge," he said. "But they did a tremendous job improvising and adjusting as the search went on."

He said the gratitude expressed by the public Friday night was "tremendous, and definitely warranted."

State Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox, agreed.

"Every public safety organization worked so well together," he said. "I remember after 9/11, it was firefighters who were the shining stars. But after this, it was the police who were the shining stars and it is really well-deserved."

Robert Thompson, a professor of popular culture at Syracuse University, noted that among other things, 9/11 was a "consciousness-raising event" for the firefighting profession. The events in Boston last week resulted in a similar consciousness-raising for the police.

"When things are going well, authority figures can seem like a nuisance," he said. "But when things aren't going well, they become the saviors.

People applaud as first responders leave the scene after arresting Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on Friday in Watertown. Local residents also cheered for the police
People applaud as first responders leave the scene after arresting Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on Friday in Watertown. Local residents also cheered for the police following the capture. (Associated Press)
That creates a very different feeling and one that you may carry around for the rest of your life."

To reach Scott Stafford:
sstafford@berkshireeagle.com,
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On Twitter: @BE_SStafford