Saturday, 2:15 PM
Woburn officials criticize police picketers
By David Abel, Globe Staff
WOBURN -- An internal investigation by city officials has found that three out-of-town police officers potentially committed crimes and acted in ways unbecoming of a police officer when they participated last week in a protest of new civilian flagger rules.
After reviewing videotapes of the Oct. 7 protest on Lexington Street, Mayor Tom McLaughlin said today that he has turned over evidence to the Middlesex district attorney’s office for review of possible charges.
McLaughlin declined to release the names of the officers or the communities where they serve.
He said the potential charges stemmed from one officer driving recklessly in the wrong lane of traffic, as well as the other two screaming at one of the flaggers in an effort to distract him from his work.
“The law has been changed in the Commonwealth and we have to respect the law, whether someone agrees with it or not,” Police Chief Philip L. Mahoney said at news conference this morning at City Hall. “I’m not going to stand for this ever again.”
The chief released a general order to officers that he issued last week that requires all those protesting the new law to “conduct themselves in a professional manner.”
“While the department recognizes an officer’s right to participate in picketing activities, conduct unbecoming a police officer will not be tolerated,” the order said.
“Members of the department shall not engage in disorderly or disruptive conduct at any picketing location, within or outside the city of Woburn, which may tend to reflect discredit upon the department,” the order said.
The chief ordered officers to avoid parking illegally on any public or private street at a construction site, walking within a marked construction zone, interfering with workers, directing obscene language or gestures at workers, or any other actions intended to disrupt the flow of traffic or impede work.
The chief said officers who violate his orders would face suspension or termination.
The new regulations, which the administration estimates will save the state between $5.7 million and $7.2 million a year, will put civilian flaggers on nearly all state roads where the speed limit is below 45 miles per hour as well as low-traffic roads where the speed limit is higher. Civilians will also be used when barriers block construction sites on high-speed, high-traffic roads. Some projects can go forward without anyone directing traffic.
Police, who have long supplemented their salaries with pay from working at the sites, have protested at several locations since the rules first went into effect last week.
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