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Watertown Police Chief Ed Deveau Retires

Ed Deveau, Watertown, Mass. police chief, stands in his office. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Ed Deveau, Watertown, Mass. police chief, stands in his office. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
This article is more than 7 years old.

Watertown Police Chief Ed Deveau retires Tuesday after 14 years on the job and 32 years on the force. He was thrust into the national spotlight two years ago, following the dramatic shoot-out with the Boston Marathon bombers, and the 20-hour search for convicted bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Chief Deveau talks to us about that day, and about what his officers got right and wrong.


Ed Deveau, outgoing chief of the Watertown Police Department.


On Watertown's unprecedented encounter with the Boston bombers

Ed Deveau: "No one, my officers or even myself, did we ever receive any training that would prepare us for something like this. It's the first time in America that a police officer has been shot at and had bombs thrown at him. ... It obviously took us by surprise and more."

ED: "I had just gone to bed, I had been sleeping for about 15 minutes and Lt. [James] O'Connor called me, woke me up and said 'Chief, they're shooting at us and they're throwing bombs at us.' And I think, 'these are the guys that killed the MIT police officer.' And then to wake up to that, trying to digest what he was telling me and then hearing the radio in the background and hearing another explosion just brought me back to reality. ... [I] rushed to the scene, and all I could think and pray is that my officers were going to be OK when I got there."

On a vivid memory he has of the night Watertown police caught Tsarnaev

ED:"Now, the day all plays out. We get the younger [Tsarnaev] brother off the boat. I just wanted to get home to my family, I just wanted to go to the town yard to get some gas. No one had prepared me that the public had come out, and so I drove out onto Mount Auburn Street and was just blown away by seeing all the town residents lining the streets, patting the cops on the back. ... Thirty-two years on the job, it was my proudest day in law enforcement."

On what could have gone better that night

ED: "Every time anybody said anything over the radio, everybody was hearing it. In hindsight, not everybody, 3,000-plus police officers didn't all need to hear it at the same time. If I had a do-over, the first thing I would do is 'OK, let's, whenever we get a call here at the Watertown Police Department that sounds like this could be it, let's call the command post, let's get a plan in place, let's figure out how to corner that area off to deal with the public, the media and all the other officers.' All we really needed down there, at that point, at the boat, was the command staff and two tactical teams. But at the same time, we had every officer that was in Watertown still heard 67 Franklin St. And for all the right reasons — everybody wants to help — so every cop rushed to try to find out where Franklin Street was."

ED: "It all has to be in context. At the time, we're thinking we're gonna catch him [Tsarnaev] in five minutes. We're going to catch him in 15 minutes. We didn't set up at the Arsenal Mall thinking it was going to last 18 hours. If we had taken a step back and looked at it that way, then we would have controlled access better into Watertown, into the command post ... Cops want to help, but they can't just show up and be unsupervised."

On whether his force should have found Tsarnaev sooner that night

ED: "We caught him that day. Bin Laden didn't get caught for how long? We won in Watertown. No one else got hurt. As the police chief in a very tense day, that's what I take away from that."

On whether Gov. Deval Patrick's shelter-in-place order was necessary

ED: "It was a spirited discussion: [Boston] Mayor [Thomas] Menino was adamant in the beginning of that conversation, 'we give in to the terrorists if we shut down, change anything we do.' So we had a spirited debate about that. But, when the governor asked me, particularly, 'Chief, what do you want in Watertown?' I said, 'Governor, as far as I'm concerned, I want Watertown closed. This person has already carjacked one person. We don't want to get anybody else hurt. I don't want any cars moving in Watertown. I don't want the transit buses coming in here and moving people around.' I stand by that decision."

This post was updated on Tuesday, July 7 at 11:30 a.m.

This segment aired on July 6, 2015.


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