December 7, 2013

McGuire's Credo of 'Expect the Unexpected' Pays off

by Clare Lochary | | Twitter | Lochary Archive

A former walk on player at Boston University, Rachel McGuire appeared on Sports Illustrated Magazine's cover twice in 2013 after her role in the Boston Marathon bombing. One was a photo from the immediate aftermath of the attack, the other with Red Sox slugger David Ortiz after the World Series.

Rachel McGuire grew up in Rutland, Vt., cheering for Boston University and later attending the school and playing for the Terriers women's lacrosse team. Now she serves as a patrol officer with the Boston Police Department.

McGuire often patrols the Back Bay neighborhood, but for several years she also has been assigned to work the finish line of the Boston Marathon. That's where she was on April 15, when a pair of homemade bombs detonated, killing three people and injuring dozens more.

One of the most famous images to come out of the coverage of the Boston Marathon Bombings was a picture of Maguire, alongside fellow police officers Kevin McGill and Javier Pagan and runner Bill Iffrig, on the cover of Sports Illustrated. After the Boston Red Sox won the World Series, she and her fellow officers earned a second cover, appearing at Fenway Park with Sox slugger David Ortiz for the celebratory issue after October glory.

Maguire spoke with Lacrosse Magazine about athletics, police work and what it's like to be in an icon.

Editor's note: The interview for the December issue took place before the Red Sox had won the title and McGuire made her second appearance on the cover.)

How did you get into lacrosse?

Lacrosse was fairly new in my town. In eighth grade, I made it my mission to make the varsity lacrosse team. I guess I got a late start compared to girls I played with in college and even in Vermont, but I loved the sport. I was a midfielder in high school. I was faster than most of the girls because I trained so much. I was always training, running, going to the weight room and lifting. I was the top scorer on my team. Rutland is a small town, and we get bored easily. That's what made me want to try it.

How did you end up playing for Boston University?

As a high schooler, I loved BU. Whenever BU played Vermont, I'd go up and watch them and think "Oh my gosh, BU is kicking Vermont's butt! I definitely want to play for BU." At the time, BU was much better. I had my heart set on playing for BU. I wasn't recruited, but I sent out my tapes and I had some interest from smaller Division III schools and some D-I schools. I went on a recruiting trip to Lafayette, but I had my heart set on BU. The coach [Sue Murphy] said, "We don't have a scholarship for you, but come and try to walk on."

What was the walk-on experience like?

I went from being a big fish in a little pond to being a little fish in a big pond. I tried out my freshman year, and I didn't make the team. I skied that year for BU as a club sport to stay in shape. Then my high school coach contacted me between my freshman and sophomore years. She said, "You have to try out again. You have to do it. It's a new coach, new chances." I said, "I don't know, it might be embarrassing if I try out again." So I tried out again for the new coach [Liza Kelly, now at Denver]. She saw something that I had that I could give to the team. I was so thankful, and I still am so thankful to her for that. I played attack; I wasn't as fast as some of the other girls at midfield. I didn't play a ton, but I felt like because of my athletic ability, I could push some of the starters.

What did you study at BU?

I was a psychology and sociology major. I like the psychological part of law enforcement. I had a dream to work for the FBI and maybe do forensics.

How did you get into police work?

When I graduated from college, I was at a loss. I didn't want to go directly back to school for anything else. I had always worked in retail at a ski shop in high school, so I got a job at J. Crew. I made plenty of money and was happy there. I love clothes, but after three and a half years, I started to think this isn't necessarily what I want to do for a career for the rest of my life. One of the J. Crew managers had taken the civil service exam and went on to the Boston Police Department. I was in touch with him, and he said I should take the exam. I had that desire to be in law enforcement, so I took the civil service exam and the ball just kept rolling from there. Soon enough, I was in the academy.

What was the police academy like?

It was hard. I do not have a military background and a lot of the guys in academy do. They knew what to expect. But I had a lot of guidance from people I'd met during the application process. A classmate took me under his wing and guided me. (He was a military guy.) He gave me an idea of what to expect. I did well at the academy with guidance from him and because of my athletic background. I was in shape. The physical stuff was hard, but I was in shape from lacrosse and I could get through it no problem. The team atmosphere and the perseverance, it's everything you learn playing college athletics. The never-quit attitude that you get, the competitiveness — it's an asset when you go into situations like the academy.

What does a typical workday look like for you?

I'm a patrol officer and I work at District 4, which is Back Bay, South End, lower Roxbury and the Fenway area of Boston. Typically, you're in a two-person car or a one-person car. A two-person car is rapid response and anything that's high priority, high danger. I'm in a car by myself and I back up the rapid response units.

I work on the night shift, 11:45 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. I like the midnight shift. You get a different kind of call than you get during the day, and different clientele, as I call them. You interact with all different kinds of people.

Generally, you arrive at work and they have roll call, which is like attendance. The sergeant wants to make sure you're there. I go over to my sector in the Back Bay and drive around.

You say hi to whoever's out. Mostly for us on the midnight shift, it's the doormen at the hotels, or the valets or managers at the restaurants. There are the regulars too that you see on the street, the panhandlers. They know the rules: If they're panhandling too close to the ATM, you have to go down the street.

And you answer radio calls. Priority calls range from a drunk misbehaving at a bar or erratic driver, that kind of thing.

I like not knowing what's going to happen. I like the unexpected.

What's the most challenging thing about your job?

This article originally appears in the December 2013 issue of Lacrosse Magazine. Don't get a copy? Join US Lacrosse today!

Probably the same thing that keeps it interesting: the fact that you never know what you're going to run into, just being on your guard all the time. Someone you may see on the street, you think they're the nicest person in the world, and it turns out they have a knife or a gun or warrants on them. You can't fall into a lackadaisical attitude. That's when you can get hurt. Expect the unexpected.

What's it like to be a female police officer?

I feel like I'm needed as a woman. I'll go to calls and sometimes victims, especially female victims, just want to speak to a female, especially in sexual assault cases. They'll send me to that call even if it's out of sector, because sometimes the victims are reluctant to speak to males. Also, our department's policy is that female officers are the only ones who can search females, so I will get called all over the city to do a search. I work for a really good department. All the guys I work with, I consider them my older brothers. We have that family camaraderie. Sometimes they are a little bit protective of me as a female, even though they know I don't need it. I know that there are challenges for females out there, but I haven't encountered any.

Can you talk about your experience at this year's Boston Marathon with the bombings?

It's a little bit hard for me to talk about. I've always had that assignment. Most of the years I've been here, I did the marathon. It felt like it was a really special place to be. Our captain is great. On that day and in previous years, he has always done a really good job of preparing us for that assignment. He said to stay alert, be aware if anything's going to happen, it's going to happen on Boylston Street at the finish line. It's a high-priority spot. It's a big crowd there. So I always felt a huge responsibility being at that post, and I welcomed the responsibility. I still welcome the responsibility.

I feel a lot more responsible now that we went through all that. It was an incident I'll never forget, and there were a lot of emotions running that day and weeks and months after. It was a tough day. I'm definitely stronger for having gone through it. I feel that responsibility for that post. I would welcome the assignment again.

How has your lacrosse background influenced you as a law enforcement officer?

I try to stay in shape. I've taken up boxing at a local gym in South Boston, Peter Welch's gym, the fighter commissioning class. It's a 50-minute class. It's awesome. It keeps me in shape.

It's important for me, being in shape. You never know if you're going to be fighting. Somebody could want to hurt me and I'd have to defend myself, or protect somebody else. Even if it's just a short sprint after a suspect or a small scuffle, you get up and you feel it. At the time, you may not feel winded because of adrenaline. You have to be in shape or you'll get hurt, and that's what I got from my years past of playing lacrosse.

Also, I'm part of a huge team now. You have to support each other, emotionally and physically. You have to back each other up. You have to complement each other how you work, how you approach an incident or a suspect or a victim. If one person isn't having any luck getting info from a witness or a suspect, another person can step up. It's all about working together as a team.

What did you think of the SI cover?

Honestly, I was not happy about it at first, simply because I thought, "It's the day after the marathon. This should not be on the cover of Sports Illustrated. It should be the runners, the winners holding up the trophy." I was upset about it at first. It got me emotionally.

A few days later, I heard my husband, who played baseball in college and comes from an athletic family, joking to his family, "This is not how I expected a McGuire to get on the cover of Sports Illustrated." So that kind of lightened it up.

Now it has settled in. After we caught the suspects and the victims started coming out of the hospital, I felt a tiny bit of closure to the incident. I can look at the magazine and say, "Hey, that's kind of cool." I can show it to my kids and say, "Hey, Mom was kind of a badass!" I've come to grips with it.

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