If you happen to be an aspiring domestic terrorist, particularly in or around Boston, with a hankering to blow up a marathon or some other large, public event, it’s been a pretty good week for you. First we learned that Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s death penalty sentence has been revoked. (At least temporarily.) And now we find out that the elite Boston Transit SWAT team that was widely celebrated for bringing Tsarnaev to justice has been unceremoniously disbanded. Officers assigned to the highly-trained unit were told to turn in their special equipment and return to more regular duty. (CBS Boston)
The highly trained Transit SWAT team that was once celebrated for capturing Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been dissolved.
Transit Police spend a lot of time training for anything that could happen. And in 2013, the unimaginable did…
For a unit that was so highly trained and regarded, sources say the team is disappointed that it has been dissolved.
The I-Team reached out to the Transit Police and were told it had no comment on disbanding the unit.
The obvious question here would be… why? The CBS News team who broke this story asked the Boston PD but received no comment. The closest they came was an observation made by some inside sources who said that the tactical team “had not been used on calls much over the last few years.”
I’m not trying to speak out of turn here, but if you haven’t had many violent crimes requiring SWAT intervention on the metro over the past few years, might the reason be that you’ve got a very visible, highly-trained and well equipped SWAT team keeping an eye on things? One might speculate that a lack of mass shootings, bombings or other forms of attack is a sign that the system was working. But what the heck… let’s just disband the unit and see what happens, amirite?
It’s hard not to wonder if the current climate of social unrest and riots isn’t playing into this decision. Mayor Marty Walsh has been under a lot of pressure to defund the police and institute other sweeping reforms. One of the big complaints we’ve been hearing regularly out of Seattle and Portland is that the police are too “militarized” and they shouldn’t be looking or acting like “storm troopers.” SWAT teams tend to go about their business while very well armed and armored. Was this some stealth maneuver intended to fend off that sort of criticism by making the transit cops look more warm and fuzzy?
Even if so, this is a sad sign of the winds of change blowing through Boston. We’re currently in the midst of two different epidemics. One involves a nasty disease, but the other is comprised of waves of social unrest, disruption and rioting that have taken on the hallmarks of what looks for all the world like a war against the forces of anarchy. You might imagine that, particularly at a time such as this, you would want to have some of your most highly-trained and well-equipped foot soldiers on standby. But that’s apparently not the sort of thinking taking place in Boston these days.
On a vaguely related note, I wanted to turn back to that court decision I mentioned above reversing Tsarnaev’s death sentence. Over at Fox News, there was a pretty good analysis of the situation from Andrew McCarthy this week. He suggests that the justices who made that decision appeared to be handing down a ruling against the entire concept of the death penalty itself rather than come considered conclusion that the bomber hadn’t received a fair trial or had been overcharged.
Because of the decision’s girth, more time will be needed to study it. The upshot of the ruling, however, is that the trial judge failed to ensure that the Boston jury could be fair and impartial in light of all the prejudicial pretrial publicity. There is a strong suggestion that the trial judge should have granted a change of venue.
This seems utterly unpersuasive to me. To start with, if there is grave doubt that Tsarnaev got a fair trial under the circumstances, then why does the court leave the bulk of his convictions undisturbed?
Should Tsarnaev have been granted a change of venue for his trial? I would respond to that question with another one. To where? Mars? That’s about how far you’d have had to go to find anyone who wasn’t already intimately familiar with the story of the Boston Marathon Bombing and the deadly manhunt that followed it. And I seriously doubt there were twelve people out there in any potential jury pool who were going to have much sympathy for the convicted terrorist.
Much like McCarthy, I find myself thinking that the three-judge panel who crafted this ruling was issuing more of an indictment of the death penalty itself than the relative fairness of the trial the killer received. But that’s not their job. You can oppose the death penalty all you like, but if you want to see it end you need to work to change the laws. While it’s on the table, it’s still available for prosecutors to use. And it’s hard to imagine anyone more deserving than Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. It’s well past time for him to go rejoin his brother.