Governor Deval Patrick Curbs Police Details Pros and Cons

This latest Blog entry concerns legislation Massachusetts Governor  Deval Patricks latest move. For those of you not from Massachusetts you may find this interesting reading.

In Massachusetts Police are assigned constructions details rather than having flag men (Woman) as in other states. My friends who are not from Massachusetts have always told me what a complete waste of tax payer money. I tended to agree with them, until I thought it through.

So after I include some articles from the Boston Globe (www.Boston.com), I will give the facts as I know them and my intial thoughts as to why I think this is a mistatke. Why I think Massachusetts policy of using Police officers at constructions sites is an excellent use of taxpayers money.

Here is an article from the Boston Globe …..

 

Patrick to set new curbs on police details

 

Policy, to be released today, targets construction zones

By Matt Viser Globe Staff / August 13, 2008

Governor Deval Patrick is planning to release new regulations this morning that will take on powerful police unions by limiting construction details on nearly all state-owned roads, say several people who were briefed on the regulations.

While the plan will not force municipalities to adopt the regulations, it is the most aggressive step yet to end a cash cow for police officers that critics have long called a waste of taxpayer dollars.

There’s a crack in the dam now,” said David Tuerck, who is director of the Beacon Hill Institute and has criticized Patrick for not going far enough to crack down on police details. “The governor has shown a great deal of political courage in taking this step.

The final regulations will be released today by Secretary of Transportation Bernard Cohen. A public hearing will be held, but the regulations are not expected to change much before they are fully implemented in October.

The regulations will require any contractor hired by the state for road work to develop a construction zone safety plan, said the people who were briefed on the administration’s plan. They did not want to be named before the initiative is unveiled today.

That plan, which will be developed by the Massachusetts Highway Department, will delineate when police details should be used and when civilians in bright vests with flags will suffice.

Police unions are expected to vigorously oppose the regulations, although several union leaders would not comment yesterday because they had not seen the final draft of the regulations.

On our roadways, public safety has to be the number one issue,” said Rick Brown, president of the State Police Association of Massachusetts. “Putting flaggers out on state highways is going to cause someone to get hurt, whether it’s the flaggers or drivers on those roadways.”

The new regulations will probably require civilian flaggers on state roads where the speed limit is below 45 miles per hour, as well as on low-traffic roads where the speed limit is higher. Flaggers will also be used on sites where barriers are used to block off construction sites on a high-speed, high-traffic road.

Some roads – generally those with speed limits above 45 miles per hour and with more than 4,000 vehicles per day – will still rely on sworn police officers to monitor traffic.

It means that flaggers would probably be placed on a construction site on Route 2 in Charlemont, where traffic is light, but a police officer would be used on Route 2 in Concord, where traffic is much heavier. Flaggers would be possible, though less likely, on the major interstates.

Although there are no statewide regulations currently requiring the use of police details for Massachusetts road projects or utility jobs, state and local officials have used them for decades at construction sites anyway, in deference to politically powerful unions. Massachusetts is the only state that automatically assigns police officers to nearly all utility and road work sites

Police have argued that the presence of a cruiser and a uniformed officer slows traffic and provides the best protection for the public and for road workers. Police have at times also made arrests or caught suspects on unrelated cases while on police details.

Critics, however, have railed against the frequent sight of police officers drinking coffee or talking on cellphones as they oversee construction sites. The details also add tens of thousands to police officers’ salaries. In 2006, nearly 1 in 10 State Police officers made more than the governor, in part because of overtime and state police work. Sixty officers made more than $40,000 working details.

In 1992, Governor William F. Weld proposed legislation to replace police details with civilian flaggers. After 800 police officers flooded the State House and accused him of taking food from the mouths of their children, Weld gave up, and few have tried to revive the issue.

That changed in March, when Patrick joined House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi and Senate President Therese Murray to say they would work to eliminate the closely guarded union perk.

After a lobbying blitz by the unions and some signals from the governor that change would be difficult, the Legislature inserted language into the bill essentially preventing the state from forcing changes on local roads, where the vast majority of projects are done.

Administration officials have said they hope that their new policy will set an example for municipalities, but there’s nothing to compel local officials to challenge police unions and make changes on their roads.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a disappointment, but anyone who looks at this with a straight face would have to say we’re not going to see much change,” said Jim Stergios, executive director of the Pioneer Institute, a fiscally conservative think tank.

Of the nearly 36,000 miles of roads in Massachusetts, about 90 percent was under local control in 2006, according to data collected by the Federal Highway Administration.

Administration officials say the new policy will save money, but have not put forward any estimate, according to the people briefed on the plan.

The cost of paying police for monitoring constructions sites and traffic on Massachusetts Highway Department projects increased from $15.5 million in 2003 to $22.6 million in 2006, a 48 percent increase over the three years, according to a report last year by the Transportation Finance Commission. Nearly 5 percent of the total cost of MassHighway’s construction projects pays for police details.

Senator Steven A. Baddour, a Methuen Democrat and cochairman of the Joint Committee on Transportation, praised the regulations yesterday.

“This is the first step,” he said. “We’ll continue to look into modifying things as we go forward.”

Matt Viser can be reached at maviser@globe.com.

To reach the original article ….

Boston Globe Article

Here is another article, I have also included from the Boston Globe…

Police protection needed from aggressive drivers

August 17, 2008

I’M GLAD everyone thinks saving money on police details at road construction sites is so wonderful. What I think is wonderful is my husband walking through the door every night safe and sound. He’s a line-striper and spends every day standing, walking, running, measuring, and setting up and breaking down equipment in highway traffic. He’s been hit by vehicles three times in 13 years. He credits his police and trooper details with saving himself and his crew countless times.

Maybe the reason we need these details is that the drivers in this state are among the most impatient and aggressive in the nation. The swearing and threats alone from drivers warrants police protection. I challenge anyone to stand for a day and watch what goes on at these sites. You would be horrified.

LAURA LaROCHELLE
Plymouth

To read the original Article…

  Boston Globe Article

 

Here are my quick thoughts on this……

We live in a very expensive state. As expensive as it is, I would not want to live anywhere else. Massachusetts is a wonderful place to live, great restaurants, Museums,  colleges, so many cultures. The Mountains, The Ocean and so on.

Scenario 1

If you take Police Details out of the equation the average salary of a police officer is effected quite a bit. In my town, it would be 42K dollars a year. What Police officer could afford to live here. What is now considered a good job, would be very quickly change. The average police officer in this state, is smart and well educated. These are good jobs and good people go after them. Its scary who would want the job, it it did not pay well. Think about who would be protecting us.  So as a flood of young Police officers left, it would very quickly send a message to all of us we need to pay them more. So the next article we would see in the Boston Globe would be the rising costs of Police Salary in the Bay State. We would have no choice but to raise Police Salaries.

Scenario 2

Police officers need to make additional money to survive. They know if they write lots of tickets. That when people dispute those tickets, they get to go to court to defend the Ticket they wrote. That is usually over-time unless you want to pull them off the streets. So instead of getting a warning, you will get a ticket. I wonder if that is not why Police are so aggressive in states like Connecticut. God think of the costly insurance surcharges.

Scenario 3

The construction company hires an outside service to handle filling out the proper forms so they don’t need Police Details. This third part of course has to put there overhead charge on the situation.  So it cost us the same anyway. The only difference is now our average police officer cant afford to live in this state.

Then I think about the typical Massachusetts driver. Lets face it we are aggressive. Imagine how we will be with a Flag Man (Woman). I think this is a place where the Governor Deval Patrick needs to back off. Give it a break. I think in Massachusetts we have it right. Pay the Police to do the construction details we are all better off.

My gut tells me this is not good public policy for Massachusetts.

Just my opinion.

 

Posted by Michael Corey

www.ntirety.com

 

 

 

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