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State estimates up to $7.2-m savings on police detail plan

Posted by David Dahl, Regional Editor September 13, 2008 09:00 AM

Following up on Globe West's story on local police detail costs, we found a Patrick administration report that estimates millions in savings if flag men replaced police details at some construction sites.

The estimate: between $5.7-million and $7.2-million a year for the state. Details on state projects cost between $20-million and $25-million, the report said. Globe West reported local towns and cities are spending millions as well.

The report also found wide spread usage of police details by municipalities and disparity in the way the details are assigned.

"Under the draft road flagger and police detail regulations and the revised traffic management plans, the Commonwealth will realize cost savings through lower hourly rates for road flaggers, efficient use of road flaggers and police details on public works projects, and through greater control over the administration of the traffic management plan,'' says the report by the Executive Office of Transportation and Public Works.

The report was released last week in preparation for Monday's hearing on Gov. Deval Patrick's proposal to limit usage of police details. The transportation agency has posted several documents on the plan here.

34 comments so far...
  1. The police details are just politicians buying votes. A bright, shining example of really terrible government in the Commonwealth. All of them should go. No other state in the country uses police as road flaggers... and for good reason.

    Posted by jim September 13, 08 12:12 PM
  1. How is it a "Public Safety Issue" when every time you go by a road detail,the police are usually on the phone or a sleep in the patrol cars...enough is enough

    Posted by steven September 13, 08 01:20 PM
  1. One a about a three dollar saving in labor rate then add back cost of the flag man health benefits , pension , vacation days and workers comp and the savings is gone and we have a flag man deficit . Flag men = having someone on site who does not have the legal authority to stop car, could be a convicted felon, does not know CPR and is not a first responder. So there will be less police working to aid an infant who cab not breath never mind prevent crime. In cities and towns it is rare to see a town vehicle on site unless it is a safety issue.

    What do not make sense is the state police and Suffolk country sheriffs’ parked with gasoline engines running and flashing lights on a closed road. Why not park a DPW truck with a $ 15 and hour Mass Highway Worker in the truck. That should save millions and prevent any more golf injuries at the exclusive big dig course reserved for MSP.

    Posted by Flagg Man September 13, 08 01:24 PM
  1. This whole issue is such bologna. Does anyone honestly think that the money saved by hiring flagmen as opposed to using Police details is going to save any money?

    The contractors that are used for road/municipal projects budget the detail expense into the cost of the project. Do you really think Keyspan or Verizon is going to pass the savings along to the taxpayer? Not a chance. They'll end up keeping the extra money and pad thier profit margin.

    The there will be two groups hurt - 1. The familes of the police who will now have to live off of a reduced income, and 2. The general public whose safety will be at increased risk.

    The only benefit will be to the CEO's who will have more cash to line thier pockets with when all is said and done.

    Posted by Bologna September 13, 08 01:54 PM
  1. When i came to this state from cal, and I saw cops doing details, I saw what cops are doing what no state does. I also saw how powerful the police unions are in this state. There is no need to have cops doing details on the road.

    Posted by prashant September 13, 08 02:21 PM
  1. I live on a fairly narrow, fairly quiet city street. On occasions when a moving or other truck COMPLETELY BLOCKS the street for an hour or so, cars simply back up and use another block. It's not a big deal.

    Yet, when a tree trimmer or contractor sets up a lift truck for a few hours, or Keyspan digs up the street, they are required to request (and pay) a detail cop, even if the lift-truck or dig-site does not block traffic because they they are on the side. The cops sometimes help ticket/tow cars that are blocking the construction site. But they spend the rest of the 4 or 8 hour shift standing looking at the ongoing work, talking on their phone, or sipping coffee. Not only could a flag-man do this work, but frankly, the work can go on WITHOUT any traffic workers, just like when the moving truck blocks the street. Let's try adjusting the rules so that we have police in exceptional situations, flag-men in routine situations, and an orange cone when nobody is needed.

    Posted by Taxpayer September 13, 08 03:59 PM
  1. There are too many State Police troopers on duty at the State House in Boston. All are probably patronage details. Sometimes u see 3 state troopers covering the McCormack building main entryand more around the outsic de of the building and s changes to 3 & 2 at lunch time with diferent State Troopers. ITs a over load there! a waste of tax payer revnue

    Posted by Jay Walsh September 13, 08 05:21 PM
  1. Has anyone noticed all the State Cops at Logan Airport are approaching 70 years old? Its startling actually. I am a BIG fan of reducing taxes and cutting expenses for towns and the state will do exactly that. Say Goodbye to $45/hr details. Do cops really need to be making $95,000 a year?

    Posted by Matt September 13, 08 06:17 PM
  1. For what officers do and see there base pay should be a minimum of 100 K a year to start and then all of you can take away details. You know what is funny? All of you are not complaining about the numerous sports players making 25 million for 6 months of playing a "game", but godforbid an offier makes 100K supporting his family and putting his kids through school. The game that an officer plays when he is working (including details) is with his very life.

    Also your comments about officers working details being a joke, are a direct insult to the family and the memory of Duxbury Police Officer Mel Dwyer, Plainville Police Off Michael Maher, Yarmouth Police Off Bradford Erickson, Medfield Police Sgt. Dan McCarthy, Lincoln Police Off Harold Leary and Middleton Police Sgt. Edward Couture.

    Im sure all of you already know that all of these Massachusetts Police Officers were hit and killed while keeping you and your own family safe on our raodways, while working one of those "easy" details that the police do nothing on besides what is it, talk on a cell phone and drink coffee; as you drive by that same officer talking on your own cell phone drinking coffee. I guess what is ok for you, is not for the officer huh?

    I must have missed seeing all of you at the funerals for these dedicated officers who lost there very lives while trying to keep YOU and your family members safe on our roadways!!!!

    When a family member is suddenly stricken ill who would you rather having racing to your home from a nearby detail, a fully trained and equipped police officer or someone holding an orange flag! CASE CLOSED!

    Posted by facts073 September 13, 08 07:32 PM
  1. Um... Yea, the state really does need cops making $95,000 a year considering what they do. Tell the widow of the guy who gets shot that he is overpaid. You see what happens across the country when the police departments are paid less. You end up getting fewer recruits, and those that do come in are less qualified. This means fewer cops to fill the hours and hence... more OT. Maybe you would get better results if the cops were paid more than $50,000 a year. That's right, forget the inflated numbers you see in the Globe and Herald with OT pay. That is the average salary with no OT for a cop on the job 10 years. Would you let your son or daughter risk their life for $50,000 a year? Detail and OT pay is what keeps the good recruits coming in and the good cops where they are instead of leaving

    Posted by James September 13, 08 07:54 PM
  1. A meager savings with a flagger is not worth the loss of A police officer on our streets. Many officers are the sole providers in their families due to their schedule, their spouses have to stay home with the kids, so yes, they should have access to extra income.
    Secondly, the other 49 states DO have police details, but also use flaggers in certain instances, why create another agency full of high paid hacks, le the trained police officers do the work that they deserve to have.

    Posted by Dan Dibella September 13, 08 08:13 PM
  1. Police are overpaid, period!!!!
    They do not need to be paid overtime for stupid flag details. Anyway, the issue is taking away SOME construction site details, not ALL of them. We all have seen police collecting big bucks on details on barely used streets because of their powerful unions. There is no reason they cannot be replaced with flaggers.

    Posted by carolh September 13, 08 08:54 PM
  1. Again, this is another example of the state's poor management. I find it funny that on my way into work in the mornings I see a flag person doing the same job that a police man does in the evening when I'm going home. The same job! Also, to add injury to insult, when the cop does the job, I see a car parked at a meeting with no funds in the meter just a block of tickets placed on the dashboard that shows Boston Police or a neon jacket that they were placed on the seat, which I guess is to prevent the meter maid from issuing a ticket on their cars. I guess it is a good thing that they used their own cars instead of the cops' cars saving gas but wait - I bet they requested mileage reimbursement. I find it just as crazy that there are police who are performing detail at a site that is less than 10 feet away from a crosswalk. Yet, when my co-workers or I are about to get hit by cars walking in the crosswalk, the cops do nothing! Not one time have I seen them issue a ticket or stop a car or anything. So, I do not see the difference between having a flag person or cop, except for more dollars going down the drain when the latter is doing the job. Also, if you notice when they do detail, they either have a cellphone or cup of coffee, nothing like a book of tickets or anything to "enforce the law."

    Posted by AJ September 13, 08 09:02 PM
  1. If cops in Massachusetts need to earn $95 a year to support their families then I would recommend they get new careers. Are you an a** making a statement like that? You should have went to business school if you wanted to make 6 figures.

    To the cop who thinks details should continue because Verizon, Keyspan will just pad their profits if they stop, I say thats a typical socialist,hack,uneducated grab what I can attitude that makes this whole process the problem it is today. You are the last person to comment on what a private company may or may not do with THEIR PROFITS.

    Posted by Dante September 13, 08 11:21 PM
  1. I find the arguments about the details enhancing public safety to be ludicrous. Often I go by a site and there is no cop there. I have stopped a few times to chat with the crews, they always tell me that they call the local station and sometimes they are told no cop is available. So if it was a public safety issue, one would thing they would have to wait until an officer was available. But NO. as long as they touch base with BPD, they are ok and can proceed. Make sense?

    Posted by boston5911 September 13, 08 11:55 PM
  1. The biggest joke is at Nantasket Beach where they are repairing the sea wall inside one of the parking lots. The lot is barricaded and is empty except for construction equipment and a State Police Officer and his vehicle on a detail. What safety or traffic issues are there inside a blocked off parking lot. I'm sure that nobody is about to steal the heavy equipment or the sea wall. Police details are nothing but a joke in this state.

    Posted by Bob September 13, 08 11:56 PM
  1. I have no problem with police personnel IF they are going to perform the same duties that a flagman would be performing. I.E. making sure that traffic is flowing smoothly, warning oncoming traffic of hazards, directing traffic. Etc.

    I think back to a fall day about 2 years ago at a worksite across the street from Government Center in Boston. My wife and I were attempting cross the street in full view of the detail policeman, who completely ignored everything around him and went about drinking his coffee. My wife was almost struck while standing in a crosswalk by an SUV. Appalled by this complete lack of concern for public safety, I questioned the detail officer as to why he was there. His answer was that he was not there for traffic control, he was there to "guard the hole in the street". This is clearly a case where a flagman would be serving the public better.

    As to the safety of the work area, contractors are required to secure their workers safety, as well those members of the public in their work area. The contractors' safety specialists typically are better equipped for this job.

    Far be it from me to denigrate the good work that our state's law enforcement personnel perform daily. I do not begrudge them the salaries that they receive to take the risks they do. However, there are many situations where their time is best spent elsewhere. These should be determined on a case by case basis. In any case, they should not be seen reading the paper, sitting in a running car with AC going, sitting drinking a coffee, etc. These actions only "fuel the fire" for finding alternatives to their services.

    Posted by mazdaes September 14, 08 12:55 AM
  1. 90% of cops never pull their gun from their holster in the line of duty in their entire career, much less fire a round.

    Posted by Save Money Less Taxes September 14, 08 01:31 AM
  1. While we're at it,let's abolish the absolutely ridiculous "Quinn Bill". "Hey thief stop",I have a Masters Degree ya know". Ludicrous waste.

    Posted by Peter September 14, 08 04:27 AM
  1. Having left the Bay State several years ago, I never thought I would see this issue addressed in the press, let alone by Beacon Hill. Detail work for cops--and firemen, is a scam designed to win votes and pad pockets-period. Sure, the officer may have to direct a bit of traffic or ticket a car, but nine times out of ten he/she spends the bulk of their time sitting in the car, drinking coffee and reading the paper. In short, the use of a professionally trained and expensive cop to do this job is not really necessary. As in most states, the job could be better performed by a flag person--which is usually the entry level position for the trade.

    PS-my objection to details has nothing to do with the integrity or sacrifice of the cops--so don't go citing names and stories to defend the practice.

    Posted by emerson stephens September 14, 08 05:01 AM
  1. James writes -"Detail and OT pay is what keeps the good recruits coming in and the good cops where they are instead of leaving"

    Does this mean that all the good cops are working detail shifts? Great...what would we do without them? Details are absurd. 50K is a very reasonable salary for a civil servant. The whole idea is that they are paid with tax dollars. 95k per year is unsustainable. Many would argue that tax dollars are better spent on education to prevent crime. A bit more long term vision will go a long way.

    Posted by billy September 14, 08 07:50 AM
  1. If we really need the added cops on the street that is provided by these details,
    then why was Andover allowed to use firemen on details when they didn't have enough patrolmen to fill the details ?

    This is a pure union issue. If you don't want your state to be run by the unions then you need to call your legislator and tell them how you feel. You can be sure that the patrolmen's unions are working the phones.

    Posted by momm September 14, 08 09:45 AM
  1. I'm a Boston native but lived in Japan for a few years and was awestruck by the appearance at construction sites of life-sized mannequins that would wave warning lamps with a robotic arm. They didn't use police. They didn't even use civilians. They used mannequins dressed like construction workers -- complete with reflective vests. And they worked! Imagine the cost savings if we could free ourselves of cronyism and do something as cost-effective and efficient as the Japanese! We're supposed to be the most inventive, creative culture on the planet -- yet we can't even manage to save ourselves millions of dollars when we know there are more efficient ways of doing something. We should take a lesson from the Japanese, swallow our pride and simply tell the police that if they really want to do a service for society they should help us save millions of dollars that could be used for schools, libraries, stronger bridges and better roads. It's astonishing that we are even having this debate. Police have to ask themselves a hard question: are the details the only safe way to move traffic around construction sites, or are they really about greed. I think we all know that it's the latter. Let's take a step forward as a society and move beyond these. It's time.

    Posted by Jason September 14, 08 10:04 AM
  1. What a waste - not only of taxpayer dollars but of the skills that police officers have. Give them a decent salary, get them out patrolling in our neigborhoods and schools instead of sitting at road work sites. How many of our young children will die in schools, or, in neighborhood shootings while cops sit at road sites? They are being paid to protect and serve - wouldn't it be nice if they did just that! These archaic practices have to change if we are to take on the challenges of today.

    Posted by Paul September 14, 08 10:57 AM
  1. No other state does this, and if this was truly a safety issue one would see the vast majority of states using the Massachusetts model. They aren't.

    Police salaries, and lifetime pension and health benefits, far exceed the value of many highly compensated private sector workers. The salary issue is a non-starter.

    I expect these changes to eventually be accepted due to budget realities. However, the future cases of police harassment and intimidation on job sites without paid police details will speak volumes about the true level of professionalism that exists in these departments.

    This is taxpayer and business extortion.

    Posted by Stop It! September 14, 08 01:36 PM
  1. Police details should have been eliminated a long, long time ago. This is an example of political patronage and the inflluence unions have over elected officials (read Democrats in this one party state). Kudos to Deval Patrick for having the guts to finally start to put this archiac perk to bed. MA is the only state in the Union that uses police for work details. How dumb do the police unions think the voters are? This should only be the beginning of reform of law enforcement in this state.

    Posted by tmorse September 14, 08 03:53 PM
  1. Police offiecers are not trained EMT's or do most know how to apply CPR if needed. Nor are they likely to have the need to use CPR since few if any accidents have near a flagman. If a Basketball play makes 100 million a season it is we the sports fans that choose to pay so.

    I see no need to have the resource of a policeman acting as a flag person when a lower talented flag person can do the job the same if not better ( Flagman do it more often). Using tax payer resources inefficantly like police officers for flagman is one of the reasons we do not have the money for better uses like schools. As far as what they make for maoney I am sure it is fine otherwise they would do something else. As far a having a felon a a flag person who cares as long as they can do the job as well as anyone else.

    It is about time we get real with our spending public funds and stop wasting our tax $$$$.

    Posted by Fedup Mass tax Player September 14, 08 09:40 PM
  1. I applaude the govenor for looking into ways of saving the commonwealth money, but let's be realistic. Most of these detail officers you see in the cities and towns are paid by a contractor. Sometimes it's for a municpal project (ie. tax dollars), sometimes not (private firm). Everyone seems to think that the commonwealth is picking up the tab every time they see a cop doing a detail. Mayor Menino estimates that having police details in his city puts about 200 additional cops on the street each day, at no cost to a taxpayer b/c it's picked up by a contractor that's developing a building. If police are making arrests, issuing tickets, and actually ensuring the public's safety, do the benefits outweigh the costs? That's what we should look at, not what an officer should or could make in a year.

    Posted by Dave September 14, 08 09:48 PM
  1. Most contractors especially in public work to not factor the costs of details in their bid. The cost is mostly paid directly from the DPW or engineering dept's budget directly to the police dept who usually take a 10% administration fee and pay the officer the rest of the hourly rate. As far a safety, most of the construction work is 7am to 3pm, the officer who generally works these details work s at night, some 11pm to 7am, they arrive on the job site usually a little late because they get off their police schedule @ 7am. How many of these details are fully rested and not exhausted for the job which should be the priority, how many catch naps when they are working their normal schedule? If 49 other states can do it, I am pretty sure we can. I am not saying abolish all details, they should be used on highways and busy intersections, but for the most part these details pay for second homes or a nice boat.

    Posted by Flounder September 14, 08 10:14 PM
  1. Massachusetts was the only state to vote for McGovern. Massachusetts is the only state to require cops at construction sites. Massachusetts out of step with the rest of the world !!!

    Posted by daveyboy September 15, 08 12:28 AM
  1. Its not about saving money as much as it should be about cops doing their job. Hence enforcing the law. How many of us have driving past a road crew over the speed limit. I can only bet many. Did a cop stop you. No. Do they stop you. No. They stand talking to workers, sit in their cars playing computer games or searching the web, or talk on the cell phone. Why should tax payers have to pay more money for a cop who sits at a construction site doing NOTHING. Police details also exhaust cops. For example Saugus police who were doing details at the new Saugus Shops Plaza on RT1. When a call came in the cops had to leave the detail. Cops need and should be stopping cars and enforcing the law. Every day I see Reject Inspection Stickers, Invalid Registry Stickers on the back plate, cars traveling at high rates of speed (usually with that Blue Sticker on it) Trucks Buses and other vehicles prohibited from the far left lane, or the people who block these lanes. Cops need to do what they were trained and hired for Law Enforcement. Not sitting around making double time off Taxpayers who bitch about crime. Why so many murders in Boston because all the cops are working details or playing golf in that reserved course for Cops. Its funny when you travel to another state and see no police details on road work and the roads look and feel a lot better then Mass roads or traffic doesnt back up 15-20 miles like in this state. BAN COPS FROM DETAILS. I take photos all the time of cops doing nothing at road work but traffic is backed up. Until cops can prove their worth as details give someone else a job. We as citizen should be able to vote on this.

    Posted by haterofdetails September 15, 08 08:08 AM
  1. Although contractors may pay the detail pay, the detail pay is usually considered when pensions are decided. So if they take 75% of the average of the last three years to calculate a pension, instead of 75% of $65k or $70k it will be 75% of $100k or a lot more, and this is money that tax payers have to pay for decades. This is ridiculous and a waste of limited financial resources.

    Posted by Geoff September 15, 08 12:26 PM
  1. Geoff, detail (and overtime) pay is NOT included when calculating local/county/state pension benefits. Never has been, never will be.

    Posted by Mike September 16, 08 02:12 AM
  1. in response to Flagg Man's post.

    he said that a flag man could be a convicted felon and that the flag man would not have the right to pull someone over.

    first off, construction/detail sites are not police check points. there should be no need to pull someone over. we don't need yet another excuse to have our rights and privacy violated.

    as for the comment about the flagg men possibly being convicted felons. So what? Are you all aware that one of 23 people right now in this country has been convicted of a felony? do those people not deserve to be in any line of work for the rest of their lives? did they not already serve their time? How does someone who had been convicted of drug dealing or whatever, so as long as it is not a horendous act of violence, not have the right or ability to have a normal, well-paying, decent job so as long as he or she is no longer doing/selling drugs or the crime they had done years before? They have families and needs also. They have the right after they put in their punishment to get a shot at the American dream. Otherwise, your ideology is to basically kill them.

    As an attorney, I would honestly say that less than 20% of convicted felons are really bad bad people. Granted, that is a lot but should the other 80% be labeled for life and stuck working as landscapers or at some bowling alley? I find that most of these people commit acts that many other in society do or have at one time, but the only difference is that they have been caught.

    There is no reason why police should be getting overtime pay of sometimes $60/hr. to stand around, or sleep in their cruiser. A flag person can provide the same traffic control as the police. The best part of being a cop is the details. It is an important part of their financial lifestyle. However, we all have given up higher paychecks and great benefits lately in this nation. Being a cop does not make you any different.

    As a public defender I see the waste that goes on in this state first hand. Thousands and thousands of dollars are spent at the courts and in our jails for people committing minor crimes that don't have any public impact.

    Posted by Public defender September 17, 08 06:36 PM
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