Beyond the Festivities: Fourth of July Security in Boston

Clayton Anderson

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Boston’s Esplanade is alive on the Fourth of July. Friends jump into the warm waters of the Charles, couples walk hand in hand, and students have picnics under the shade of the trees. It’s picturesque, but what you see on the surface is different from what’s happening behind the scenes.

Trooper Angela Guerrera, left, and Lieutenant Ramsland, right, surveil the Esplanade.

“Believe it or not, there’s a lot more going on here,” Trooper Angela Guerrera said.

“You see those guys?” Lieutenant Ramsland asked, pointing at two men in their early forties wearing sunglasses and cargo shorts. “They both have guns.”

He changed his focus.

“You see him?” he gestured to a man who stopped walking to readjust his wallet in his back pocket. “He’s probably messing with his police radio,” he said.

Don’t be alarmed. These people aren’t a part of some coordinated criminal group. They’re cops.

Large trucks block traffic from driving onto Storrow Drive, next to the Esplanade.

This Fourth of July, the officers you see in uniform will only be a fraction of those around you. There have been no credible terrorist threats, but Boston Police Department isn’t letting its  guard down one bit.

While Lieutenant Ramsland and Trooper Guerrera seem to be at ease standing in the shade, they’re actually hyper-analyzing everyone who walks by. It takes years of experience to accurately pick out who’s a threat, but the average person can attempt it too, they said.

The best way for Bostonians to keep safe this Fourth of July is to remain vigilant, they said. If someone looks out of place in any way, tell someone. If they’re wearing too many clothes, have a hard stare, or seem isolated from everyone else, don’t hesitate to report the person.

“Go with your gut,” Guerrera said. It’s cliché, but the phrase is true: if you see something, say something.

Even if you don’t, the police have you covered. They’ve placed small NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) detectors around the area that actively “sniff” the air for bomb residue. They’re so small that the average passerby doesn’t even see them.

Also hidden, BPD has heavy artillery and a surplus of officers that can be deployed at a second’s notice.

Compact bomb detectors are placed throughout the celebration’s premises.

Ramsland is proud that the U.S. isn’t a military state. He doesn’t want to scare the public by displaying large guns.

Police departments from all over New England provided backup for the Independence day celebration.

“We have everybody and their mother out here,” Guerrera said. Even federal troops from the civil support team were present.

Festivities would get called off if authorities knew of a legitimate threat, but there’s always the possibility of a lone wolf attack.

“We’ve made this as safe as we possibly can,” Ramsland said. But he acknowledged that one guy with a knife “can do a lot of damage.”

Still, Ramsland and Guerrera are confident in BPD’s abilities to keep the public safe.

Ramsland’s biggest concern for the day: he doesn’t want his shoe polish to melt off.