Sacred Cows Falling-Police Details under Scrutiny

Today’s Globe has a story by Matt Viser detailing the united front being put on by Governor Deval Patrick, Senate President Therese Murray, Speaker Sal Dimasi, and a host of legislators (including Methuen Senator and Transportation Chair Steve Baddour)for reform of the system regulating police details in Massachusetts. While the details have not been presented as of yet it is clear that with all of the legislative leadership together with the governor a bill will likely be successful. From the Globe:

Senate President Therese Murray, joined by Governor Deval Patrick and House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi at a Beacon Hill press conference, said they had agreed to come up with new regulations that will encourage state and municipal officials to rely on civilians in bright vests with flags, instead of officers, to direct traffic and monitor some low-risk construction sites.

They offered few specifics about how the rules would work, but said they would focus initially on dead-end streets and side roads. The change would be modest, saving only about $5 million a year. The rules, which would apply to road construction and utility-work sites alike, could be in place in a matter of months.

The State Police Association responded as you might expect:

“The public safety that we offer is leaps and bounds beyond what a flagman could offer,” said Rick Brown, president of the State Police Association of Massachusetts. “I don’t know how you put a flagman out there without endangering the public.”

The coming proposal will rate streets, and concentrate the effort on allowing flagmen on dead end or lightly traveled ways. The State leadership also announced crackdowns in other areas.

The leaders, flanked by a dozen or so legislators, also announced plans to streamline construction projects, crack down on retirement and pension plans at the MBTA, and force the Turnpike Authority to look into adopting electronic toll systems and get rid of workers. But the police detail changes are expected to be the most controversial. The proposal would save the state $100 million over 20 years, according to Murray’s office, or $5 million annually.

Municipalities would also be able to save money:

Municipalities would also save between $37 million and $67 million a year by replacing most police details with less expensive flaggers, according to a 2004 study by the Beacon Hill Institute, a nonprofit economics study group at Suffolk University.

“The very fact that there’s movement in this direction represents a very important shift,” said David Tuerck, executive director of the Beacon Hill Institute. “It’s very promising.”

With all levels of government in fiscal crisis you can expect more “sacred cow” legislation to be filed. For those believing that it is business as usual get ready. There is more medicine coming.

Read the Globe story at this link.

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5 Responses to Sacred Cows Falling-Police Details under Scrutiny

  1. Jules Gordon says:

    Your Honor,

    From what I read in the newspapers, the law, as proposed, will effect details in low traffic areas such as dead ends or streets with very,very low traffic (3 cars per hour).

    Is this true? I (the cynic) feel they will not have the courage to eliminate police details altogether. It will have the same effect on the budget that the rule that allows the towns to join the state medical insurance plan, IF the union approves.

    What courage.



  2. Jules Gordon says:

    Your Honor,

    Please read the Tribune editorial for 3/29. It discusses he state of fiscal management in our state. SAD.



  3. Bill Manzi says:

    The specific proposal has not as of yet come out (as far as I know) but it will without question focus on “ways” that are not heavily traveled. Whether it is real reform or just pablum come down to the proposals specifics. The devil is in the “details”.


  4. Jules Gordon says:

    Your Honor,

    I predict the result of this activity will be window dressing and give the appearance of accomplishment without angering their constituency (police unions)

    Let’s follow this one.



  5. jim says:

    On Police details, I was asking my Town and they feel they will loose money as police details bring money in to the general fund at a rate of 10% per detail. Who will train flagmen, what happens to people that do not obey them as it is know the police can mail me a ticket. I am also wondering if the State and big cities will have any roads that come under the “quite ways” I bet not….so the only ones hurt are the small Towns. I recall a Globe article not long ago that showed many Towns not paying officers all that well, and these officers were leaving for other departments, If they have low regular pay, will this force my local officers to have to or want to leave for a better paying department or one that gets to keep police details


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