Written by Steve Prisament Tuesday, March 18, 2014 02:11 pm
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ATLANTIC CITY – Law enforcement personnel at the 29th annual 200 Club of Atlantic and Cape May Counties brunch Sunday, March 16 were told that what police did to hunt down the Boston Marathon bombers was “no different than what you people do on a daily basis.”
Watertown, Mass., Police Capt. Raymond Dupuis, commander of field operations, spoke to about 500 guests at the Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa following a service at St. Nicholas of Tolentine Roman Catholic Church.
Like many police departments, he said Watertown is short-staffed, down about eight officers to 65. He said four were scheduled to be on duty the night of the marathon, held in Boston each year on Patriots Day, the third Monday in April.
He said that most gunfights last three to four seconds, but that night the gunfight lasted five and a half minutes. And then the suspects began throwing bombs – three pipe bombs and one pressure cooker bomb like the one responsible for the carnage at the Boston Marathon.
“We had seven dispatchers instead of our normal two the next day,” Dupuis said. “We had 28 calls one day; 566 the next day. And we took most of the calls. Only seven calls had to be forwarded to a secondary site.”
Police went house to house on their search for the suspect.
“Most people let us in,” Dupuis said. “We didn’t force our way in. We tried sending officers home; they wouldn’t go. ‘You don’t have to pay us,’ they said. We were doing things like checking open garage doors.”
At 6:48 p.m. they got the phone call reporting the suspicious boat where the suspect was captured.
“Our call only went out on the Watertown station,” Dupuis said. “It didn’t make a difference. Everyone showed up.”
He said that after a day with helicopters hovering overhead all over town and gunshots being fired into residences, the police interact differently with civilians.
“We did what we could to see that people were compensated for their damages,” Dupuis said. “Where their insurance had deductibles, and people had bullet holes in their homes, we paid for that. We got a lot closer to the community.”
There were changes in police procedure as well. One officer used to carry 29 bullets.
“He used to say if I can’t shoot a suspect with 28 bullets, I’ll use the 29th to shoot myself,” Dupuis said. “He doesn’t say that any more.”
The captain said that his officers worked side-by-side with Boston police who came to the town which is next to Boston, just across the Charles River.
“I said this must be old hat to you, to one of them,” Dupuis said. “You’re used to shootings. Nothing ever happens here.”
The big city officer told Dupuis not to sell himself short.
“I’ve never had bombs thrown at me,” he said.
In much the same way, Dupuis, who was seated at a table with Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian, said he was impressed with the stories of valor from Atlantic and Cape May counties.
A number of officers, a dispatcher and civilians received plaques or certificates for their heroic efforts during 2013 later in the program.
And $42,500 in scholarships were given out to the children of first responders.
The event was emceed by NBC TV40 news personalities Michelle Dawn Mooney and Pete Thompson. Mooney also sang. Colors were presented by members of the New Jersey State Police and Atlantic City Police Department honor guards. The Sand Pipers Pipes and Drums band performed. Atlantic City Police Officer Jerrell Lathan and his brother, retired Atlantic City Officer Harold Lathan, sang the national anthem. 200 Club Chaplain Rev. Louis Strugula Jr. delivered the invocation.
Retired State Police Lt. Michael Parmenter presented a video tribute to fallen officers. 200 Club President spoke and introduced the guest speaker. He and Mayor Guardian made a presentation to Dupuis after his talk.
Larry Szapor, chairman of the Valor Awards Committee, conducted the presentation of the awards. Leonard Gray, Scholarship Committee chairman, conducted that portion of the program. President Emeritus Peggy Mallen-Walczak made two presentations.
For information see www.capeatlantic200club.org.
Photos by Shelby Wessner