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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi All,
First I hope everyone is enjoying the Christmas season. :D
I decided to try to do something besides being annoyed with the recent bashing of details and penned this editorial which will appear in our local paper tommorrow morning.
I've ommitted identifying info....but any real cops on the board can figure my agency out anyway. Fire away w/ may not be perfect but it says what I wanted to get out into public consumption and I hope it's at least somewhat readable.
Either way, it's on its way to press so.......
Details, Details....

Well folks, it seems like another cop-bashing bandwagon has come rolling through town. This time it's in the form of a "study" on police details released recently by the Beacon Hill Institute. I thought I'd present the other side of the story in hopes of keeping the uninformed from jumping on it prematurely. Some big numbers were thrown around for shock value; 90 something million last year, and don't ya know that we could save 36 to 66 million if we just get rid of local police details - Oh my! The main thesis of the study is that local police road details supposedly aren't worth the money because they don't make traffic any safer. They exclude State Police details, apparently conceding that those details are worthwhile. The study hypothesizes that local details aren't worth it because of two factors: The Commonwealth's overall accident rate, which is the worst in the country in terms of property damage, and second worst for personal injury, and the fact that the greater Boston Metro area has a higher accident rate than comparable metropolitan areas that don't have police details. The first conclusion seems contradictory on its face; they exempted State Police details from the study, but use the overall numbers for Massachusetts, which would include accidents on those same state police roads, to reach their conclusion. In other words, state police details must be keeping their roads safer and hence worth the money, but those accidents that actually do occur on those same roads are then counted as part of the evidence that a detail on Main Street is supposedly a waste of money. This finding is also disingenuous because a road job detail by its very nature is temporary and of limited scope. There is no argument that a large hole in the ground, accompanied by numerous workers, dirt piles, large construction equipment, fuel, chemicals etc. with cars driving only a few feet away poses a public safety hazard. (Otherwise, why would there be a question as to needing a flagger that the study purports as a better alternative to a cop?) If the detail prevents any accidents from happening as a result of this hazard, has it not served its purpose? But how does one count something that doesn't happen because it was prevented? Wouldn't it be a more fair evaluation to study the accident rate for a particular road or area where construction is being done and see if the accident rate was significantly HIGHER? If the rate of accidents stays pretty much the same, the detail is doing what it's supposed to do. Why would one expect that, outside the scope and time frame of the detail, that accident rates for the rest of the time would be better? The authors of this "study," in using data over 20 years for the whole state and not specific areas apparently believe that my detail on main street today in <mycity> is only worth the cost if it somehow scares a passing motorist enough that he will drive more safely and not get into an accident two days later, when he gets to an area of another town where there is no construction. Riiii-iiight&#8230;. Let's get even more specific than the overall stats for a particular road and ask, how many crashes happen at a local detail? Surely if our details are useless, then these road hazards should be causing plenty of accidents at the work sites right then and there! The answer is that motor vehicle accidents at road details are virtually non-existent. In over 5 years of working quite a lot of them, I've never had a single car crash as a result of the road project I was working with, nor heard any officer call one out on the radio. While this is admittedly more anecdotal than validly statistical, and I'm sure construction-related accidents happen from time to time, it is so rarely as to be almost never, and I'm certain not statistically significant. Remember also that details, whether you like them or not, have been a fact of life, and our lousy statistics came to be with details already in the picture. There's no way to know just how much worse it would have been without them. I would argue that common sense dictates that the mere fact that people are forced to slow down and proceed carefully through an area under the watchful eye of a police officer must make that particular portion of the road safer, at least for the period of time the detail is there, which could provide for a small reduction in overall stats. But deciding that details are useless because the overall accident rates aren't closer to some standard (which would be what, exactly?) or the national average? I'll say it again: If a road detail alleviates the risk caused by the road job to which it is assigned, it's doing its job. Their second comparison barely merits a response to a thinking person, but here goes; they take the busiest, most densely populated and congested area of the state that already has the highest accident rate in country and, violá, that area has a higher accident rate than other comparably sized areas! Wow! I bet if you study Alaska and find that it gets the most snow statewide, you'd find the coldest, northernmost city gets more snow than other comparable hamlets in the country too! This so-called study reeks of "advocacy" research where, instead of studying data to reach an objective conclusion, the purpose is to justify a predetermined subjective conclusion by whatever means necessary, so let's talk about what this is all really about: MONEY.
They claim that by taking away local police details that it would save ratepayers 33 to 66 million dollars per year. They compare the cost of a flagger at $9.97 an hour to a cop at a state average of $34.70. Sounds like it would be a lot cheaper right? Don't count on it - we're not in Arkansas folks; Massachusetts is a heavily democratic pro-union labor state. Those guys you drive by holding a shovel at the side of the road typically make up to $30-$40 an hour plus benefits, and that's for a general non-specialized laborer. In fact, a new worker for the Middlesex Corporation (doing work here in the city) commented to me just the other day: "See at all these people looking down their nose at me driving by in Mercedes and Lexus?&#8230;.if they only knew I was making 29 bucks an hour doing this&#8230;probably more than most of them." Any cadre of civilian flaggers would be part of a union, and paid some sort of prevailing wage. Let's low-ball it and say the guy gets paid the $21.11 an hour the study quotes for a "certified flagger." Add in the flaggers' benefits, insurance, workman's comp, the company's share of FICA as well as company overhead and a profit margin, and guess what, it's probably costing a lot closer to $30.00 an hour to have the guy out there with his little flag. (This also doesn't factor in the loss of the substantial savings in insurance that the construction companies get by having police details) This brings us to real substance of the argument now - the difference in cost between having a cop and the flagger out there on the road. The "study" says it can't be shown due to a "lack of relevant data" whether people have less respect for a flagger than a police officer. Gimme a break here - many people have no respect for the police as it is; I don't need "relevant data" to know that there would be absolutely none for a guy waving a flag, who has no authority to take any action on errant motorists. Divide those few dollars an hour by millions of ratepayers, it probably comes out to pennies on your bill every month. Besides, if details were gone tomorrow, do you really think your rates would drop? I seriously doubt it. So what do you get for the extra monthly pittance in your bill? You normally get anywhere from a dozen to twenty plus police officers on the street everyday. A cop doing traffic is still a cop, and is prepared to take police action at any time. Bad guys are caught, lives are saved and people are helped all the time by detail officers in Massachusetts, you just don't hear about it. I've personally made two arrests of domestic abusers who were stalking their victims in violation of restraining orders while on details this year. I was also on scene once in less than 30 seconds to a person-down call from a nearby detail. If you don't understand the value of having someone there that quickly, ask anyone who has ever waited for an ambulance how long 4 or 5 minutes (a good response time) seems while a loved one is having a heart attack. These are not simple anecdotal tales either, they happen all the time. A flag waver is not trained or equipped, much less duty and honor bound to run into a school where a maniac is shooting at children. An unattended orange cone is not about to run to the house around the corner where someone is choking, like Officer Soandso of the <myagency> Police did a few years ago. (A life was saved that probably would not have been otherwise that day&#8230;. I wonder if that guy would think details are worth it.) Where do you think those 15-20 extra cops immediately materialized from the day of the huge riot at the High School?
Every year or two the Quinn bill is attacked, and now it's details. Folks, starting pay for a <myagency> Police Officer is just over 41k. That kid I mentioned from Middlesex Corp. makes over 60k for the same 40-hour workweek. The average price of a single family home in the city for the last six months was $418,000.00. Nowadays we are held to a professional standard in our work; a cop is trained in the academy for over 1000 hours now, and continuously later on through intradepartmental training, state-required yearly updates and other specialized training. Many of us also hold college degrees in Criminal Justice or related fields. While some may not view us as the professionals that we are, it is still arguable from the training alone that our work is highly specialized. The job isn't only knowledge; a police officer needs the right attitude, temperament, empathy, judgment under stress&#8230;the list goes on. We are enforcers, mediators, medical responders, street lawyers, wrestlers&#8230;that list goes on too. To attract and keep quality people for the job, police salaries would have to rise substantially just to be livable if the extra earning potential of the education incentives and details was taken away. This would show up in your local tax bills much more dramatically than the few dollars a month you probably pay in your utility bills.
Most of us don't eat & sleep like normal people due to the schedule, and our families live every day with the fact we might not come back in the same shape we left in, or worse, not at all. We give a lot of our life and heart to the job, in the form of missed family dinners, holidays, baseball games, dance recitals and a million other small things. Wives really love police work, as is shown by the sky-high divorce rates of police officers. (Personally, I'll be at the phone number below on Christmas Eve all night, and again Christmas Night. The wifey is thrilled.) Please don't take this as a complaint; we all knew what we were getting into and chose to be where we are, in service to YOU, the public.
Rush Hour isn't just an hour any more; there are more cars on the roads every year, but the same amount of roads, so it's not going to get any better. I'm proud to do what I do, I would just hope that it's worth more to you than what the manager of Burger King makes. I also hope that the public and lawmakers will consider some of what I have said here before entertaining any action to take away our opportunity to make a living for our families, while performing a legitimate and necessary public safety function and being available on the streets of the communities we serve. Best wishes for a Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year!

<My tag line and contact info follows here>[/i]
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