Civilian Flaggers on the Horizon?

By Michael Coughlin Jr.

Louise Johnson and Paige Sparks from Jamaica Plain’s Neighborhood and Public Service Committees joined the Jeffries Point Neighborhood Association’s (JPNA) monthly meeting on Monday, Apr. 10, to gauge interest in the civilian flaggers ballot initiative.

This initiative aims to gather support to potentially allow civilians to work detail on construction sites instead of having the police do it.

Johnson indicated that several years ago, state legislation was passed which could help make the civilian flaggers idea a reality. She also said that about 46 other states already have civilians working on construction details.

“As it stands now, Boston Police – on overtime – man the construction details that go on around the city – they’ve done this for years,” said Johnson. 

Moreover, according to Johnson, the police union has the detail work in their contract. With the police in contract negotiations this year, she wants to show Mayor Michelle Wu there is support for turning this work over to civilians.

“This is a problem because this is all done on overtime, and so it’s incredibly expensive for the city. The construction companies or the private individuals who have to have a police detail – they’re supposed to pay for this,” said Johnson.

“But, by and large, the system is somewhat broken, and so a lot of times the money is not reimbursed, and the city just winds up fronting the money and not having it ever come back to them,” she added.

While saving the city money could be a benefit from this initiative, there were also thoughts that it would free up police officers to do other work rather than monitor the safety around construction sites.

Earlier in the meeting, JPNA Treasurer Andrew Pike brought up people “blowing through” the intersection of Cottage and Marginal Street.

Sergeant Joe Cintolo indicated that the police would pay attention to this area in response to Pike’s concern. However, Cintolo mentioned that the police are currently shorthanded and only have one traffic car out.

“We saw tonight the police can’t even cover basic traffic problem areas,” said Johnson, in a comment referencing Pike’s concern and underscoring the idea that civilian flaggers could allow the police to focus on other issues.

Along with gauging the JPNA’s interest in the initiative, Johnson and Sparks are asking for neighborhood groups to vote and potentially send a letter to Mayor Wu regarding the issue.

Pike, who was taking questions and comments from the chat, identified that there was some support for the initiative from those in attendance at last Monday’s meeting.

Although there was some support in the chat, Margaret Farmer, JPNA’s Co-Chair, mentioned there would have to be a discussion amongst the board to determine the process for eventually writing a letter in support.

“This would be a wonderful thing for the city. It would provide jobs, it would help the budget – it would be a great thing,” said Johnson.

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