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Value of police details queried
Group sees high cost and poor safety record

By Donovan Slack, Globe Staff | November 11, 2004

Police officers working at construction sites on local roads were paid an estimated $94.3 million statewide last year, more than three times the amount civilian flaggers might have cost, according to a study that questions whether details pay off in road safety.

The study contends that taxpayers and businesses could have saved $37 million to $67 million if local laws allowed companies and government agencies to hire civilian flaggers instead of uniformed officers to direct traffic at construction sites.

''Somebody owes the public a big explanation as to why we are wasting millions of dollars a year on these details," said David Tuerck, executive director of the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University, which conducted the study. ''The police cannot produce one shred of evidence to support why we need this expense."

The study also indicated that Massachusetts had the highest rate of accidents causing property damage and the second highest rate of accidents causing bodily injury between 1980 and 2000, though it is the only state where cities and towns routinely require police supervision at road construction sites.

The report does not include data from the State Police, whose troopers typically work highway construction details. Massachusetts has the nation's third lowest rate of fatalities in highway work zones, according to the report, which focused on municipal roadways.

The accident data -- obtained from the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles and the Insurance Research Council, an industry-funded research group -- did not specify how many accidents occurred near road construction sites. And the researchers said they could not unequivocally conclude that police details had no effect on traffic safety. But they said the high rate of accidents statewide strongly suggests that police details are not a serious deterrent.

''The implications of this analysis are significant," the study said. ''The safety record suggests that the state is receiving a poor return on its investment."

Police unions have long argued that Massachusetts roads are safer than in the 49 states where civilian flaggers are allowed to handle much of the work. Yesterday, officials at the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association defended that argument, saying that data of accidents near road construction sites, if it were available, would show that police details make roads safer.

James Barry, legislative agent for the association, said the Beacon Hill Institute's study failed to account for other factors that might explain Massachusetts higher overall accident rate. He said that without police details, accident rates would be even higher.

''We have the worst drivers in the country," he said. ''Absolutely nobody would pay attention to civilian flaggers."

For the study, Beacon Hill Institute researchers surveyed detail costs at police departments in 103 of the state's 351 cities and towns. Using that data, they estimated that officers across the state earned a total of $142.9 million for off-duty details, including security details at nightclubs and stores. Based on itemized data supplied by some of the departments, the researchers estimated that about two-thirds of statewide detail costs were from road construction sites.

Police in Massachusetts charged an average of $34.70 per hour for detail work in 2003, according to the study. If civilian flaggers had been hired instead, companies and government agencies could have paid a rate as low as $9.97 per hour, the national average wage for civilians who direct traffic, the study said. The highest rate researchers found nationally for civilian flaggers was in Delaware, where flaggers who have received training and special certification were paid up to $21.01 an hour.

Police unions dispute those figures, saying that the prevailing wage law in Massachusetts requires that workers at construction sites be paid the same as construction laborers, which could inflate their cost in the state.

Barry contended that the rate charged by flaggers in Massachusetts could be as high as $38 an hour.

''If it's a union job, which most construction jobs are, then you have to be paying the rate of a union laborer," he said.

The Beacon Hill Institute researchers said the prevailing wage law does not apply to flaggers.

''It's absurd to argue that state labor laws should require us to pay civilian flaggers at a rate of $79,000 a year, which is what the police union is suggesting," Tuerck said.Police unions defend local laws in Massachusetts that require that police be present at road construction sites.

But there have been numerous reports of officers manipulating the system for extra pay. The Globe reported in September that hundreds of Boston police officers collected pay for working two detail shifts in separate locations at the same times.

In 2000, the Globe reported that Boston police officers skipped out on court dates to work details, causing criminal cases to be dismissed. In 1998, another Globe report showed that hundreds of Boston officers called in sick or injured on days they worked details, allowing them to collect sick pay and detail pay.

In a newsletter for some 22,000 police officers across the state, representatives of the Massachusetts Police Association warned readers of the Beacon Hill Institute's study.

''The hair on the back of our neck began to rise upon learning of a study being conducted by . . . a think tank at Suffolk University regarding police details," said the newsletter, The Sentinel, in its legislative report. ''Experience tells us this cannot be good. We urge you to use discretion in the amount of information given and the cost of providing such."

Jim Machado, an executive board member of the Police Association and one of those who wrote the report, said yesterday that stories in the media often are compiled without police input, and that the costs of providing information can be excessively high for small town police departments.

Some of the 248 police departments that provided data for the study did not respond to the institute's requests for records.

Dozens said they would charge for the data, and some said they did not know how much was paid to detail officers or how many details officers worked in their towns last year.

Donovan Slack can be reached at [email protected]
 

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I have been the target of The Globe and Donovan Slack..........Her last story failed so she has to continue to prove her incompetents. She has become quite sucessful in doing so. Like I'm really a Double Dipper, isn't that a star?
 
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Sorry I didn't see this when I went and started the other forum about this. Well also I guess Channel 5 is covering the story they have an article on there web site about it. I will post the link below. It's pretty obv. that some civilian is just sitting around picking apart things that cops do. As usual they love to pick apart things police officers do. Like the the article says MA has some really bad drivers that half of the time don't even listen to uniformed police officer never mind to a civilian. It just goes back to the fact that most people have no respect for law enforcment at all.

Channel 5 New Story About Detail Pay

Stay Safe Out There
 

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Massachusetts has the nation's third lowest rate of fatalities in highway work zones, according to the report, which focused on municipal roadways.
That's the answer to why we do details in Mass.

''We have the worst drivers in the country," he said. ''Absolutely nobody would pay attention to civilian flaggers."
Hell, they don't listen to uniformed Police Officers.... even less would pay attention to flaggers.

Using that data, they estimated that officers across the state earned a total of $142.9 million for off-duty details, including security details at nightclubs and stores.
How can they factor in these details? In most places these details are NOT required. The businesses request our presence, they want a PO there.

I recommend my brothers and sisters on this site to send her an email voicing your opinion about her negative and anti-police image she tends to cast in all her articles.
[email protected]
 

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I think it's interesting how they never figure the cost of benefits, OT, labor negotiations and training into their cost estimates for civilian flaggers. The "national average" of $9.00 an hour is a specious argument: maybe that would be a proper wage in, say, North Carolina: but not in MA or CT. At that rate they'd have to be on the dole as well!
Since our detail pay is just that: no benefits, medical, etc., I don't believe the cost savings would be as great as they believe.

Once again, it's just an opportunity to put a thumb in the eye of the cops.
 

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HEY ! ! ! ! !
I hate working details ! ! ! They are dangerous ( was hit last year by an elderly driver )
I don't get to sleep or see my family but almost half of my take home income is derived from details.
The flaggers can have the road jobs, but only when I am payed what I deserve. When my base pay matches what I make currently in details then the flaggers can have it.
To the Boston GLOBE :^o :2up:
 

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Guys remember this thread "Cops struck while working detail"
http://www.masscops.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=4510

A cop put his own life aside to save a Mass Electric worker, we'll never see that from any flag guy. Cars won't even stop school buses let alone some random guy with a flag. If having cops instead of flag guys saved only that one life its worth all the money!
What if that worker who's life was saved was the reporter's...brother, son, father, etc. They'd be singing a different tune! :evil:
 

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The Fox Morning Show was discussing details today too. They claimed that flagmen are alot more cost effective. They encouraged anyone who could explain why we need details to send them an email to explain. The link to send them an email can be found at:
www.fox25.com .
 

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Let the sheriffs do them instead...............



























On a serious note: Our sheriff in Rutland County last year started a road detail for civilians. They were trained by the department, worked for the department. The sheriff charged somewhere near $35 and hour for a car with amber lights and the civilian. Paid the civilian around 9.50 an hour, and made the department that much more money. Personally, road details I feel if big enough, need to have blue lights. Work zone safety is not the same with joe smoe out in the road with his thumb up his ass picking his nose.
 

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I definitly agree that having an officer is far safer for the work crew and public. But, we are our own worst enemies. If we're working details we need to be paying attention to the detail. My wife and I were traveling through Whately a couple of weeks ago. Whately PD was using Sheriffs from somewhere (didn't recognize the patch) and at the beginning of the detail I stopped for a young lady deputy. I sat there and sat there while she had her back to me. There was no traffic coming. She finally realized we were there and put her hand up to stop us. (I had already stopped) We waited approx 7 or 8 minutes, still with no traffic. Then she turned around to face us again and motioned for us to proceed. :?: As we got to the other end of rt 5, there was a WPD officer and SO deputy shooting the breeze with traffic backed up quite a ways. It definitly will send a bad message to the general public if we are out there and not paying attention to what we're doing. I also believe that if we are able to take a cruiser to a detail that we need to be outside the car. I can't tell you how many times I've heard the comment, why do we pay the cops to work details when all they do is sit in their car and read the paper?
 

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I may not be in the field anymore, but I still wrote both the "Boston Globe" and "Foxnews". My suggestion is fight back at the media. They obviously portray one side of the story...theirs! Take out an ad, go on the record, anything. There is a dangerous trend out there in regards to the credibility of cops. The media is pounding the field without anyone challenging them. Just take a look at either your own courts or even the high profile cases lately, juries are acquitting at a record rate! They are not all dumb, they watch the news and read the paper. If all they see is cops in a negative light, how do you think they are going to serve as jurors? Stop being defensive and go on the offensive.
 

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WILL MITT Romney rush in where Bill Weld came to fear to tread?

The issue is police details -- and the tens of millions of dollars that could be saved if municipalities moved from requiring police officers for traffic control at construction sites to using civilian flagmen instead.

As anyone who has ever, say, traveled outside Massachusetts can attest, almost everywhere else in the country, most such traffic direction is performed by flagmen. But because of the influence of the police unions, nearly every Massachusetts locality requires a uniformed police officer at those sites.

That policy has been an issue here for more than a decade, and with good reason: Details drive up the price of road, utility, and construction work. Still, even determined cost-cutters have shrunk from the challenge of changing the current practice.

Back in his early years as governor, Republican Bill Weld introduced a bill that would have let highway engineers decide when a uniformed officer was needed and when a civilian flagman would suffice.

A hearing on that legislation brought as many as 800 cops to the State House. Those officers, who according to an account at the time had to be "cautioned repeatedly . . . to refrain from intimidating witnesses," proved to be exceedingly effective at persuading legislators of just what an, um, important piece of public policy the details were. A cowed committee sent Weld's bill to a study, which is the legislative equivalent of an unmarked grave.

That experience taught Weld that detail discretion was the better part of reform valor. After that, when reporters would query him on the subject of details, Weld would cite the 1992 experience, and puckishly note that if the Globe could put the votes together to pass a reform measure, he would be more than happy to file the bill.

"Politically it is very difficult for elected officials to make a change, even though it should be up to the police chief or police commissioner to decide those situations where a detail is really necessary," says Sam Tyler, president of the nonprofit Boston Municipal Research Bureau.

Certainly there's been no shortage of stories about both the cost and abuse of police details. Most recently, the Globe's Donovan Slack documented a pattern of detail double-dipping -- that is, officers being paid for working two such shifts at the same time.

And in a new study based on data obtained from 103 police departments, the Beacon Hill Institute estimates that if less expensive civilian flaggers had been used at construction sites on local roads, businesses and taxpayers would have saved between $37 million and $67 million last year.

Why such a big savings? Because it costs, on average, $34.70 an hour for a police officer, compared with something between $9.97 to $21.11 an hour for civilian flaggers.

Some argue that detail costs don't matter because many details are paid for by private companies. But the extra costs don't simply disappear. Instead, they are passed on to customers in the form of higher prices.

"In our judgment, there is no justification for this system in terms of the public interest," says David Tuerck, the institute's executive director.

When I asked the governor about the issue yesterday, I expected the sort of evasion reporters have become accustomed to on this issue. Thus it was a pleasant surprise when Romney said he had read about the new study in the Globe -- and that he planned to meet with knowledgeable officials to learn more about the issue.

"The report this morning . . . suggested that there is an opportunity for substantial savings. It is something we are going to look at very carefully," Romney said. "If we can save for our cities and towns tens of millions of dollars, that's something we have to do."

Good for the governor for not simply looking the other way -- though, when it comes to reforming police details, recent history shows that it will take a determined effort if anything is to be accomplished.

Indeed, given the Legislature's demonstrated reluctance to offend the police unions by putting the public interest first, the best way to alter the current cosy arrangement may be by making police details the subject of a ballot question and letting the voters decide.

Now there's a challenge to keep the rust off the governor's political organization.

Scot Lehigh's e-mail address is [email protected].

http://www.boston.com/news/globe/ed...2004/11/12/a_devil_in_the_details_for_romney/
 

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Just a thought.....

Look how well security screeners at air ports were when they were making 9.00 an hours just imagine how good a flag man would be..
 

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We can all see the writing on the walls...$9/hr airport security suck now there's extensive MSP+$9/hr workers, someone took the cheap way out and it costs us all even more. Flag wavers...at the first accident the paper will blame police for ineffective enforcement actions, then there will be cops watching the flag wavers!
 

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Just wanted to share with everyone an AMAZING sighting, I saw with my own eyes a MA State Trooper OUTSIDE of his cruiser on a detail yesterday. In 25 years I have seen this on 3 occasions. My Dept has far more road jobs than we can fill, so this Trooper had a nice Verizon detail, and he actually directed traffic. WOW amazing.


We may be our own worst enemy with regards to details, but there on any given day on the Masspike there are 20-30 Troopers who only exit their cruiser to get their slip signed.

So Vor,Killjoy,Dcs,Usmc, heres your chance to defend yourselves.
 

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You know, they do these stories every year to fill space. They think they have uncovered some big crime or new topic.
 

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Booger eating flagman standing in the road = arrest.

Someone knocked your cones down and almost hit you booger eater? Gee that's too bad, bye.... What's that you say, you got a plate #??? Hmm, oh well....
 

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