Last week marked 10 years since the tragic Boston Marathon bombings. The U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs held a hearing Wednesday to assess the country’s preparedness to protect itself from emerging and evolving threats.

Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, who previously served as Republican governor of Massachusetts in the early 2000s, and Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-New Hampshire, chaired a hearing on lessons learned from the bombing and how to prepare for and respond to a possible future attack. He also spoke about lessons he learned running the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.

“Obviously, in the years that have passed, a lot of steps have been taken by the public sector, the private sector, as well as the federal government to make our nation more secure. But we’ve learned from some of the security gaps that have existed in the past, and we’ve made an effort to become more safe as a nation,” Romney said in his opening remarks.

He said that the coordinated efforts between government agencies became a priority following 9/11 and the bombing in Boston. “And that’s, I think, even more important, following our withdrawal from Afghanistan and the ongoing turmoil that we’re seeing in the Middle East, these calls for continued vigilance and effort to make sure that we’re doing everything we possibly can to protect the homeland and our citizens,” he added.

Timeline of events in 2013 Boston Marathon bombing

The Senate invited three witnesses, including Richard Serino, a deputy administrator at the Department of Homeland Security, Edward F. Davis III, commissioner at the Boston Police Department and Kerry Sleeper, a former assistant director at the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

“As the medical incident commander in Boston for more than 35 mass casualty incidents and for all of Boston’s major planned events, including the Boston Marathon, I can tell you that the fact that the response was so well executed wasn’t an accident — it was a result of years of planning and coordination,” said Serino in his testimony.

While Serino detailed the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s coordination efforts from its headquarters in Washington, D.C., Davis described the horrific details of the scene on April 15.

“There were multiple amputations. Every ambulance and police transport vehicle available transported nearly 300 people to world-class hospitals,” he said. “There were countless examples of bravery that day by first responders, medical personnel, runners and spectators who ran toward the explosions and rushed severely injured people to medical care; police officers who used their belts as tourniquets, their bare hands to extinguish a man on fire.”

Romney asked the witnesses what lessons were learned but not implemented, to which Davis pointed to the uncertainty related to “sensitive technologies.”

“There are some jurisdictions, some in Massachusetts, that at the local level have stopped police from using things like facial recognition technology or access to camera technology,” he said. “And I understand the concerns about privacy in those situations. But we must remember as a government that the police are the security team for the poor people in our cities.”

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Meanwhile, Serino, with Homeland Security, said he noticed a “lack of social cohesion, partly because of COVID” as of late. After the pandemic, the public safety departments across the board lost chunks of their workforce, which would be a reason behind the “fragmentation,” he said.

Romney spoke about Salt Lake City’s Olympic Games in 2002, which arrived only a few months after the 9/11 attack, forcing lawmakers, like himself, to think of ways to protect the games.

The three categories of focus were hardening places, like churches and malls, that could be attacked, measuring the “capacity to respond where there was an attack,” and acquiring intelligence, he said.

“I must admit that which gave me the greatest confidence that our games would be safe was that the FBI put in place a very substantial intelligence capability in Utah prior to the games and was following potential threats, and so, I felt relatively secure,” Romney said.

Since intelligence gathering is essential to protecting citizens, Romney asked the witnesses whether more can be done to strengthen this area of emergency response. To this, Serino emphasized the role of “the public as an asset” by generating trust between law enforcement agencies and the public.

Meanwhile, witness Sleeper, formerly with the FBI, said that although the U.S. intelligence communities have made huge strides, “our adversaries have never been greater,” she said of Russia, Iran, North Korea and China.

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Romney also noted the rise in crime around the U.S. and asked if Davis saw any reason for this trend.

Davis said that community policing has helped with this issue but that “(t)hey’re letting people who are violent criminals re-offend over and over again and they’re not being held,” he said, adding, “And the thing that we learned in the ’80s, in the ’90s is there’s a very small percentage of people who commit a large percentage of the crimes and if you separate those people from society, the crime rate will go down.”

Suzanne Bates contributed to this story.