In 1992, Mass. Gov. William F. Weld learned his lesson when he tried to change policy at the Massachusetts Highway Department so civilians could serve as flaggers at construction sites. He abruptly dropped the issue after roughly 800 police officers flooded the State House and accused him of taking food from the mouths of their children. In 1995, James P. Jajuga, then a state senator, came to the same realization after dozens of nasty phone calls from police officers and their families, some characterizing him as ”despicable” for trying to pass a state law limiting the hours officers could work on police details each week.
Two newly elected representatives also tried to rein in details that year with a bill that would have sharply cut the number of construction sites where police details would be required and capped police detail pay. They were beaten back by powerful police unions. The requirement by most cities in Massachusetts that police officers, rather than civilian flaggers, man details at road construction sites has been called the third rail of politics here. After a Globe investigation this week showed that hundreds of Boston police officers have been double-dipping on details, some government watchdogs again sounded a call for reform. But it appears any push for reform will meet the same fate as earlier efforts.