As Bostonians returned to work for the first time since Monday's fatal blasts, an oversized van parked across the street from the Boston Police Department headquarters has become a command post all of its own.
Parked outside the Whittier Health Clinic, the white van is a law-enforcement brain of sorts, boasting radios, computers and televisions to help co-ordinate the resources of 53 northeastern Massachusetts enforcement agencies as they support local police.
With a name like North Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council, it's no wonder the several officers posted here Wednesday morning call it by its friendlier title, NEMLEC. The council pools resources from across the region, bolstering the Boston force with ramped-up policing units, including canine, motorcycle and bicycle, SWAT and negotiations.
"We all speak the same language," said Police Sergeant Rich Russo.
This is Sgt. Russo's first assignment to the command post, but as a lieutenant-colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps deployed to Falluja, Iraq, in 2006, the Patriot Day attack and its ensuing investigation is hardly his first "critical incident."
Sgt. Russo and his fellow officers are working to support those out in the field, ensuring they have the radios and communication devices they need – and simpler things, too, like food and drink.
That latter, though, has been assumed by local restaurants, Sgt. Russo's said, with pizza delivery vans canvassing the streets for hungry men and women in uniform. The City of New York, too, has deployed some canteen trucks, he said.
The NEMLEC post might also field incoming investigative tips. If someone passes something along to an officer from one of the 53 towns and villages, he or she will then transmit it to the command centre which then relays it along to the Boston headquarters.
As for the recent discovery of a bomb's circuit board and new intelligence about the nature of the explosives, which investigators now know were laden with shrapnel, Sgt. Russo said he's pleased to know progress is being made – despite the fact that he found out about the development not via the radio transmitters or command channels, but via the news media.
"Everyone's on a need-to-know basis," he said. "We're obviously happy with any leads they find to help bring these people to justice ... But our primary mission is to assist the Boston Police and provide security to the citizens of this city to allow them to get back to their day-to-day activities – so that they can feel comfortable enjoying the freedom they have as Americans."