Top Massachusetts leaders have vowed to use their combined political might to take on powerful police unions by limiting construction details, a longstanding cash cow for police officers that critics for years have called a waste of taxpayer dollars, the Boston Globe reports. Senate President Therese Murray, joined by Governor Deval Patrick and House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi, said they had agreed to come up with new regulations that will encourage state and municipal officials to rely on civilians in bright vests with flags, instead of officers, to direct traffic and monitor some low-risk construction sites.
The changes will focus initially on dead-end streets and side roads, saving only about $5 million a year. The move is surprising because it is being undertaken by Democrats who typically count public safety unions among their political allies. Republican Gov. William Weld tried in the 1990s to crack down on police details and failed. Police have argued that the presence of a patrol cruiser and a uniformed officer slows traffic and provides the best protection. “The public safety that we offer is leaps and bounds beyond what a flagman could offer,” said Rick Brown, president of the State Police Association of Massachusetts. “I don’t know how you put a flagman out there without endangering the public.”