Boston Cops are lost in the details

September 14, 2008

When’s the last time you were thrilled with the performance of a Boston police officer? Was it when he or she waved you through a red light while working a construction detail? Or was it when you got directions from him? Or was it when he or she let you go after you got stopped for that crazy no-left-turn onto Comm. Ave. off of Mass Ave.?

Regardless, an article I read the other day brought up the painful subject of how cops sit around aimlessly at construction details and their only contribution is to add to the ire of drivers and pedestrians. The police on the detail do this by talking on the phone, pretending that they know something about sewer or telephone work by staring into whatever hole is being worked on, drinking Dunkin’s coffee, and ultimately ignoring their tasks at hand – which I’ve always thought was to ensure a smooth flow of traffic and people around said work site.

My angst at the thumb-twiddling cops at construction sites has been magnified since I’ve been riding a scooter. That’s because most cops behave just like the light-tripping mechanism at the stoplights around town and ignore any vehicle smaller than a Yugo. On four separate occasions I’ve had to wait an interminable amount of time just to be waved past a tiny hole in the ground.

Ironically, if I had broken the law and behaved as if my scooter were a bike (as some scooters are allowed to do based on engine size) I could have just buzzed past the roadway annoyance.

Add a feeling of being ripped off to my annoyance of being delayed at work sites and you might see how getting regular people to work these details would seem like a genius move. It makes perfect sense to allow cops to go do cop things instead of giving them eight-hour paid vacations standing around the streets of Boston. But not to the police unions.

In today’s (Sunday) Boston Globe, a story on the front page shouted that unions rush to protect details!

There is actually an October deadline for a cop an state agreement about details. If the Governor gets his way (and likely the preferred way for most citizens who are tired of seeing cops munching on snacks and drinking coffee while talking on the phone), then ‘flaggers’ will be allowed to work sites that previously were staffed by cops.

According to the Globe story, the rules that Deval Patrick is trying to introduce will follow a level of dangerousness and allow work sites that are less dangerous to be manned by these citizen flaggers.

The real wrinkle appears – also according to the Globe – when local cities and towns are brought into the mix. If a town decides that all details in its borders require cops on details, then their decision will overrule the state’s decision.

Right now, unions and anyone who sells donuts to cops is rushing around to make sure that our men and women in blue are allowed to keep their cushy positions wandering the side of the road, ignoring the flow of traffic and collecting hefty paychecks.

A public hearing will occur Monday at 5PM at the Massachusetts State Transportation building.

I urge anyone who cares about taxes, pork and lazy cops to be present. I plan to ride my scooter into the city to see what happens. I hope there aren’t too many construction sites in that area or else nobody will make it to that meeting on time.

Maybe we’ll even get people with video cameras to attend the hearing and live blog it for those who can’t make it into town at 5PM on a work day. I’m betting that lots of cops will be present.

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