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|Town Bows to Chief on Details|
|Tuesday, October 07, 2008 02:21 PM|
Duxbury recently joined a number of towns in giving local police the power to require police details at work sites, effectively circumventing a push by Governor Deval Patrick to allow the use of civilian flaggers. |
The Board of Selectmen voted at their last meeting to insert language into police contracts giving the police chief discretion as to whether or not officers are needed to direct traffic at work sites.
The language was inserted into both the patrolmenâ€™s union and the commandersâ€™ union contracts, and says that the police chief has the power to determine the â€œappropriate level of police service in the Town [sic] to ensure public safety.â€
Selectman Elizabeth Sullivan briefly questioned why the agreement was being re-opened outside of the normal process. â€œTo give them a concession ... it doesnâ€™t seem like good negotiating,â€ she said.
Town Manager Richard MacDonald said that the unions requested the change, and that this meant the contracts could be reopened. He also said that the language needed to be in place by Oct. 3 in order to supersede the new state guidelines.
â€œIt gives the police chief the discretion ... we felt that was necessary for public safety purposes,â€ MacDonald said.
The town did receive some concessions from the unions, MacDonald said, though he declined to say what they were.
The board voted 3-0 to approve both changes.
Although the language may prevent Duxbury from using civilian flaggers on work sites, MacDonald said he didnâ€™t see a financial impact.
â€œWe didnâ€™t feel it was of any great impact on the budget,â€ he said.
David Tuerck, executive director of the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University, said the move to allow civilian flaggers on work sites started as a research project to determine how much money municipal governments and utility companies could save. The research gained support when Governor Patrick made a public push for flaggers.
Tuerck said the argument that police details donâ€™t cost taxpayers money because they are often paid by the utility company doesnâ€™t hold water.
â€œItâ€™s one of the most disingenuous arguments ... there are no free lunches here, somebody pays,â€ he said. â€œ[Civilian flaggers] save ratepayers money because the utilities are publicly regulated and have to reflect costs.â€
Tuerck pointed out Massachusetts is the only state where police details are used at work sites.
â€œItâ€™s the only state where flaggers are never used,â€ he said.
Currently, the state only has the authority to allow civilian flaggers on state work projects, Tuerck said. If cities and towns do what Duxbury has done and add collective bargaining language giving local police discretion, he said the stateâ€™s hands are tied.
â€œItâ€™s confirming the police union monopoly,â€ he said. â€œThe police union is naturally going to decide that itâ€™s a safety issue ... The town is just buckling under to the union.â€
He added that even on state authorized projects, there is a projected cost savings of $6-7 million.
Duxbury Police Chief Mark DeLuca did not return a phone call seeking comment.
A recent poll conducted by the Beacon Hill Institute showed that 86 percent of people polled supported the use of civilian flaggers, according to beaconhill.org.
â€œThis question had the most lopsided margin of all the questions posed in the poll,â€ said David Paleologos, director of the center, in a press release. â€œAcross age, gender, geography, and political party affiliation, it was overwhelmingly supported.â€
Tuerck said that his organization does not lobby for specific legislation, but they would watch the issue as it unfolds and perhaps conduct more research.