New Report Explains Successes and Failures of Response to Bombing, Manhunt

Bostonians remained safe and resolute following the 2013 marathon bombings because of years of preparation, according to a new report by four emergency management and criminal justice professors and other faculty members at the Kennedy School, Law School, and Business School.

“Boston Strong was not a chance result,” the report, released April 3, said. “It was, instead, the product of years of investment of time and hard work by people across multiple jurisdictions, levels of government, agencies, and organizations to allow command-level coordination and effective cooperation among agencies.”

According to a press release from the Kennedy School, the analysis serves to identify “those critical moments when planning, preparation and coordination paid off—as well as those occasions when performance left room for improvement.”

The report asserts that the initial response from medical and law officials was effective and helped limit the number of fatalities. When two pressure-cooker bombs exploded 12 seconds apart near the marathon finish line on Boylston Street on April 15, three people were killed on scene, but all of the estimated 264 others who were injured were kept alive and treated immediately.

But, according to the study, the coordination between law officials during the ensuing manhunt that caused a day-long “shelter-in-place” advisory also showed some significant flaws.

“The stresses of these events in Boston showed some fault lines in the doctrine—and in the depth of implementation of the doctrine—and these provide an opportunity for further progress both in Boston and elsewhere before the next events begin to unfold,” the report said.

The group of authors consists of Business School professor Herman B. “Dutch” Leonard ’74, Executive Director of Kennedy School’s Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management Christine M. Cole, Executive Director of Kennedy School’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation Arnold M. Howitt ’71, and Law School professor Philip B. Heymann. The report said that the authors spent the last several months examining the “100 hours of intense drama that riveted the attention of the nation and left the local public shaken and yet proud.”

The authors’ series of interviews and investigations culminated in a day-long expert dialogue at the Kennedy School in March that brought together around 100 law enforcement officials, witnesses, and experts to compare experiences and opinions.

Howitt told The Crimson that as part of his plans to distribute the report’s findings to a wide audience, he hopes to talk to media outlets, speak to police groups, and testify before the House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security.

“We can’t guarantee everything we say is going to get into professional practice, but we certainly had useful dialogue,” Howitt said. “Many people seemed to find the findings useful.”

—Staff writer Forrest K. Lewis can be reached at