Police Detail Reform withers on the vine

The Boston Globe is reporting today that the vaunted “reform” of the paid police detail system in Massachusetts appears to be dying a slow death. This reform, announced to great fanfare by the top legislative leadership only a short time ago, appears to have been undone by the tremendous lobbying done by police unions. Governor Patrick had pledged reform.

Governor Deval Patrick and the state’s top legislative leaders stood united in March and made a bold proclamation: They would use their combined political muscle to take on powerful police unions and their sacred perk – construction details.

But it did not take the Governor long to backtrack in front of the pressure. From the Globe:

Patrick was the first to publicly back off the tough stance when, just a week after the highly orchestrated news conference, the governor said on WTKK-FM’s monthly “Ask the Governor” radio show, “The more I think about it, the less certain I am that we can fix this top down.”

So the localities will continue to incur higher costs, when in fact a legislative fix that was non-financial could have saved some money. From Michael Widmer:

Given the limitations of the legislation, it can’t be anything dramatic,” said Michael J. Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation. “By tossing it to the local level, they’ve essentially passed the buck.”

Municipalities would save $36.5 million to $66.5 million a year by replacing most police details with less expensive flaggers, according to a 2004 study by the Beacon Hill Institute. The study estimated that cities and towns spent $93.3 million in police details in 2003.

Our Senator, Steve Baddour, expressed some optimism but acknowleged the heavy pressure:

“I now understand why reform sometimes doesn’t rise to the surface,” said Senator Steven A. Baddour, a Methuen Democrat who was chief sponsor of the legislation and remains optimistic that it will bring about reforms. “It was the most difficult two weeks I’ve had in the Legislature.”

If the final product does not allow details to be reformed at the local level outside of collective bargaining then from a local perspective nothing will have been achieved.

“There ultimately will need to be change so that communities won’t have to negotiate changes to use civilian flaggers,” said Geoff Beckwith, executive director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association. “Otherwise, what happens is the unions ask for other concessions like pay increases or additional benefits in exchange.”

I am glad I did not wager any coffee with Jules over this one.

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13 Responses to Police Detail Reform withers on the vine

  1. Jules Gordon says:

    Your Honor,

    Unions 1, citizens 0

    Steve Baddour’s remarks, “I now understand why reform sometimes doesn’t rise to the surface,” said Senator Steven A. Baddour, a Methuen Democrat who was chief sponsor of the legislation and remains optimistic that it will bring about reforms. “It was the most difficult two weeks I’ve had in the Legislature.”

    Five years as a Senator and he’s JUST understanding it NOW.

    Say, isn’t he the one that’s one of the leaders for your municipal relief program?

    Good luck on that one. I think I will have Moca Supreme—LARGE.

    A sign of things to come under the new Democrat dominated federal congress.



  2. Bill Manzi says:

    Large? Oh the pain, to the taxpayers and to me.


  3. Ryan says:

    Thanks, Bill, for a most excellent blog. I’ve been really, really disappointed with Beacon Hill on this issue. I wish I could say “surprised.”

    Politicians love to talk about finding “creative solutions” to saving money. You really can’t say this is a creative solution – 49 states and practically the rest of the world have beat us to the punch – but at least it is a solution. It’s time for Beacon Hill to pass it.


  4. Bob says:

    Could a group of citizen get a copy of the legislation change it slightly and have it as a binding referendum on the next state ballot?

    If our legislators don’t have the guts to do this maybe the people do.


  5. Bill Manzi says:

    The proposal ended up being a request to the Governor to change state regulations governing the use of police details. But I think it would be possible to do what you suggest, but it is a daunting task.


  6. Bill Manzi says:

    Thank you Ryan. Your blog is outstanding. I am a regular reader. This issue takes on a bigger perspective for us at the local level because it is linked to non-financial law changes that are designed to save us money locally. My argument with our friends at the state level comes down to this; if you cannot, due to financial constraints provide additional local aid, then you must help us administratively to reduce our costs. You cannot have it both ways by refusing additional assistance and by refusing administrative relief.


  7. Jules Gordon says:

    Your Honor,

    Do you have friends on Beacon Hill? If so, your enemies must be something else.

    Could you list some of their names?

    As you know, I am in complete agreement with you on the matter if Municipal management independence. Some how, over a period of time, your “friends” created this issue.

    Let me sum it up this way, I do not fear for the safety of our bet, considering the the quality of your friends.



  8. Bill Manzi says:

    I actually get along with our legislative delegation quite well, and consider the larger Merrimack Valley state delegation to be friends. It does not mean that I agree with them on everything, and our conversations can be quite animated over issues dealing with municipalities. As you know from my postings I have been critical when I feel it is appropriate. No sense in being nasty about it, because it does not advance the interests of Methuen to do that.


  9. Jules Gordon says:

    Your Honor,

    If they are ineffective then they cost the citizens of Methuen dearly. After all they belong to the body that created this mess in the first place.

    It seems to me they need to be replaced by people who will correct the problem.

    If you really want to get mad, don’t forget these are the same people who going to cost you a JUMBO cup of coffee.



  10. Bill Manzi says:

    The JUMBO coffee is where I draw the line. I have received a report today that the Senate has passed our package as an outside section of the budget, but it may have been modified. We may need a referee if this information is correct.


  11. Jules Gordon says:

    Your Honor,

    To win, the legislators must either reject the legislation, or modifies it such that it does not achieve the goal of making financial and management decisions effectively.

    I will leave the satisfaction of a modified bill up to you.

    Does the House have to pass the legislation?
    Did the Senate pass your bill unaltered?

    I am not worried.



  12. Bill Manzi says:

    The House would have to agree in the budget conference. I am getting a copy today (I hope) and will be able to tell what changes have been made. One change that I believe has been made is that the ability to consolidate school and city business functions without school committee approval has been removed. That would be a shame.



  13. Jules Gordon says:

    Your Honor,

    I assume Starbucks does not have Supersized Jumbo. Too bad.

    I await the results.



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