I was going to weigh in on the police-details-vs.-flagmen controversy, but half the Dracut Police Department is still mad at me for a sick-time story I did two years ago.
But if I did have the nerve to write about police details, I’d probably recount the time a couple of years ago when I saw an officer sitting in his air-conditioned vehicle on the side of the road, looking at what I thought was a laptop computer. I was in a van at the time stuck in heavy traffic and from my vantage point I could look down into the car as I rolled past. He was watching a movie on a portable DVD player. So much for protect and serve.
I’d probably mention the times when I’ve been stuck in traffic with hundreds of other motorists, with absolutely no idea what to do or which way to go and the good officer in the street is chatting away with the guys from the utility company.
I’d tell you about the poor soul who had the audacity to blow his horn and raised both hands above the steering wheel, palms up, as if to say, “Um, little help, here?” That little gesture certainly got the officer’s attention. He walked right over to the driver, who sheepishly rolled down his window.
“You got a problem?” snarled the officer.
I don’t know what happened to the guy, but he was told to pull over, as traffic snaked through.
I’d mention the nice, friendly flaggers on Clinton Street in Concord, N.H., who actually are helpful and smile and move traffic along, all for about $10 an hour. I’d respond to Jerry Flynn, co-founder and executive director of the New England Police Benevolent Association, who complained about the “disingenuous reporting and half-truths,” promulgated by the media in a column he wrote in The Sun on April 12. I’d respond to the anonymous e-mailer who complains about the “paltry salaries” he and his fellow officers are paid.
I’d mention the Burlington police officer who pulled down $202,000 in 2005 and the letter I received from his daughter defending him and saying that for years he has “sacrificed” Christmas and Thanksgiving, birthdays and anniversaries, so he could provide for his family. Oh, the humanity.
But I’m not going to do that. I have too much respect for law-enforcement officials. You couldn’t pay me enough to do their job. The police officers I’ve met and got to know over the years are among the best people in the world. They put on a uniform and they become an instant target. How many of us can say that about our jobs? For the most part, they are brave, noble, conscientious and take their vows to protect and serve with seriousness and gravity.
They never know what they will encounter when they pull a vehicle to the side of the road or when they walk into a building to break up a domestic fight. And believe me, I understand the need for extra income. I have high school kids and I’m looking at college tuition payments for the next half-dozen years.
And I’m sure there have been times when officers working a detail had to respond to a medical emergency or a crime in process. But I’ve seen too many police officers standing on the side of the road or sitting in their cars while the men in trees do their thing. In most cases, there is very little need for the officer to be there. If the work site poses a significant danger, then assigning an officer to the area should be part of that officer’s shift.
How many hours do you think that Burlington cop had to put in to pull in a $202,000 salary? Does fatigue play a factor in an officer’s decision making when he’s back on duty? How alert can an officer be when he’s adding an additional 30 or 40 hours to his workweek?
Yeah, I’d weigh in on the issue of police details if I wasn’t afraid that the local constabularies would be upset with me.
Dennis Shaughnessey’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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