‘Watertown Strong’ gives police a lift

In the month since Watertown was the scene of a dramatic shootout and manhunt involving suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings, local and online vendors have sold 4,300 “Watertown Strong’’ T-shirts, which is expected to mean more than $75,000 in gross revenue for a new foundation set up to support the town’s police force.

Watertown Police Foundation and department leaders hope to use the money to fund special training, equipment, and community outreach programs not covered by town funds, according to Police Chief Edward Deveau.

According to Stephen Messina, who is overseeing retail sales for the foundation, local

stores have sold about 1,500 of the shirts, raising $30,000. Tom Miller, whose Walpole-based company, T.R. Miller Co., oversees Internet sales, said there have been about 2,800 sales online, netting the foundation about $47,500.


The revenue from the sales of the shirts, which feature a Police Department insignia, will be added to about $5,000 in contributions given to the nonprofit charity.

Joseph Darby III, the foundation’s president, said the sales figures represent gross revenue before expenses, and include proceeds from orders that have not been completed. He said there is about $50,000 in the foundation’s account, but some of that is needed for expenses like buying shirts.

Deveau and other officials expressed hope that it is only the start of the foundation’s efforts to supplement the Police Department’s budget.

“Short-term, our focus and goal is to help both the police and community recover and restore itself from the tumultuous events of last month,’’ said Darby. “In the long term, we want to really emphasize connection and communication between the Police Department and the community.’’

The foundation has organized a community forum for Wednesday, allowing
residents to hear Watertown police officers speak about what happened during the shootout and manhunt. The event will take place at Watertown High School from 7 to 9 p.m.

Deveau said budget cuts have forced the department to lay off eight police officers in as many years, and forgo training workshops.


“This foundation is something that is much needed,’’ Deveau said. “We’re hoping it will be able to really give us a shot in the arm.’’

The charitable organization was started after April 19, when the two Boston Marathon bombing suspects went to Watertown after hijacking a car, and engaged in a shootout with police. Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, died after being shot by police and then run over by his younger brother, Dzhokhar, 19, while he was trying to escape. Dzhokhar was captured that evening in a boat parked behind a house on Franklin Street after a massive manhunt.

In the days that followed, Anne-Marie Aigner, a Watertown resident and marketing professional, said she felt the need to help beyond dropping off flowers at the police station, which she did the day after Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was found.

“In Watertown, all of a sudden there was this townwide sigh of relief, a townwide show of pride,’’ Aigner said. “The Watertown police helped stop a horrible situation. They stopped it in its tracks, and we all wanted to do something.

“I was listening to the chief on the radio,’’ she said, “and thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we had a T-shirt to sell or something?’ ’’

Seemingly overnight, the shirts became wildly popular. A list of political dignitaries and celebrities are known to own them, including Vice President Joe Biden, Governor Deval Patrick, and Boston Pops conductor Keith Lockhart, Aigner said.

Darby said that the shirts are sold in local stores like J&S Carpet Co., Francis Food Mart, Eastern Clothing Co., and Donohue’s Bar and Grill, as well as online at www.watertownpolicefoundation.org.


Watertown’s new foundation isn’t the only one to benefit from the upwelling of support after the bombings. Allison Roche, executive director for the 20-year-old Boston Police Foundation, said that in the last month it has received $75,000 in contributions from around the world, including Australia and South Africa.

In Watertown, a small amount raised by the foundation helped pay for a picnic last weekend for police, Deveau said. But it will take another month or two of gathering feedback from police and the public before anything substantial will be funded, Darby said.

However, Darby, who also led the Boston Police Foundation for four years, said organizers have several ideas in mind, including outreach programs like an athletic league where police play sports with local youths, as a way to fight juvenile crime, and reinstating drug awareness programs in Watertown’s schools.

Darby also said the foundation would help fund special training sessions, and provide new or updated technology for officers that the department’s annual budget cannot afford.

Police and foundation leaders said it will be up to them to continue their fund-raising efforts as the raw memories of last month fade.

“There’s always a concern that it will be short-lived,’’ Deveau said. “But based on what happened, I think the community realized that they need a talented and trained police department, and the foundation can really help make that happen.’’

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