Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick wll take on powerful police unions by limiting construction details on nearly all state-owned roads, reports the Boston Globe. 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, director of the Beacon Hill Institute, a critic of 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 regulations will require any contractor hired by the state for road work to develop a construction zone safety plan. 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 oppose 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.” Under the Patrick plan, 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.