Gov. Patrick Takes on the Police Details

Here’s the scene: Every time our fellow drivers slow to a crawl in a Pavlovian response to flashing police lights on the highway, we fume. people, if the cop is already busy, he’s not going to come after you for doing 10 over the speed limit. For the love of God, lay off the brakes and keep moving. We’ve got places to be.

(This might be why our parents refuse to ride in a car with us.)

1218641198The state’s powerful police unions have long cited the flashing lights effect to defend their lucrative construction detail work, and several governors have come and gone without fighting them too hard. But Gov. Deval Patrick has a plan to cut back on the number of details that will require the services of police officers.

We think the new rules would best be explained in some sort of algebraic equation, because the Globe’s prose breakdown is confounding.

The new regulations will probably require civilian flaggers on state roads where the speed limit is below 45 miles per hour, as well as on low-traffic roads where the speed limit is higher. Flaggers will also be used on sites where barriers are used to block off construction sites on a high-speed, high-traffic road.

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.

Essentially, we’d still see real cops on interstate and local highway jobs, but would see flaggers on back roads in Western Massachusetts.

Critics say they’re not sure if the savings are worth the hassle of fighting the unions.

“Who’s going to pay for these flagmen to be trained, who’s going to pick up their unemployment insurance? We just don’t think the cost savings are there,” [AFL-CIO spokesman Tim] Sullivan said.

Yes, but as long as voters think the savings are there, Patrick comes out of this looking like a champion of the taxpayer. And we’ll be happy if the absence of a police cruiser keeps our fellow drivers from slowing to a near-stop as we try to get out of town.