Former Boston Police Commissioner Reflects On 9/11 — And How It Changed Policing
Sept. 11, 2021 will mark 20 years since the terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Virginia, and Pennsylvania.
Even though the attacks happened hundreds of miles from Boston, they affected the city greatly that day. Two of the planes hijacked left from Logan International Airport. The attacks also sent local officials into a heightened state of security.
Paul Evans is now a security consultant, but was the Boston Police Department commissioner on Sept. 11, 2001. He spoke with WBUR’s Steve Brown about the attacks and the aftermath.
Highlights from this interview have been lightly edited for clarity.
What do you remember most about that day?
It started out as a normal Tuesday morning. I went into the office early, did some paperwork, had a few meetings and then decided to do a quick workout. I went down to the department gym … and at that time, one of the towers was already on fire. I listened to the [television news] commentators for a brief time, when all of a sudden the second plane hit the south tower. I recall immediately jumping off the machine, sprinting to my office, calling the mayor and said, ‘Mr. Mayor, turn on your television. We have a problem.’
How did you handle the fears that Boston could become a target that day?
What we did right away is obviously brought the command staff together. We had already planned for any type of concerns of this nature of terrorism.
I also remember at the time that as the day went on, I was in contact with some of the downtown skyscrapers, in essence saying, ‘Listen, we haven’t accounted for all the planes, they’re still up in the air and you’re a potential target and we advise you to evacuate your buildings.’ I had some pushback, but eventually I think all of them complied.
How did 9/11 change local policing in a city like Boston?
It caused us to do more community policing — making sure we were in touch with the communities, that we had their trust. And if they saw things that looked out of place, they needed to let us know when we needed to work with them even more closely because of the nature of the threat.
With the exception of events like the Boston Marathon, we have — for the most part, I think — successfully dealt with the terrorism issue. But like all of law enforcement, you’re only as good as your last day. It’s that constant of have to be evaluating the intelligence, working with your contacts to make sure that we’re on top of this.
This article was originally published on WBUR.org.
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