Let’s talk About Public Safety


By: Peter Larocque – April, 2011

According to Wikipedia, (meaning quick encyclopedia), a multilingual, web-based, free content encyclopedia, Public Safety involves the prevention of and protection from events that could endanger the safety of the general public from significant danger, injury/harm, crimes or disasters, (natural or man-made). In the United States we have the Department of Public Safety, (DPS) also called, Office of Public Safety which is a state or local government umbrella agency which serves to assist the certain agencies in their services by providing administrative, financial and technical services and support for core public safety functions i.e., Fire and rescue – Hazmat, Ambulance and EMS., Police and Security Guards., Emergency Communications., OES- Office of Emergency Services., Inspections and Code Enforcement., Animal Control., DMV.,U.S. Department of Homeland Security, (At Federal Level).

Doesn’t this information sound impressive and reassuring that public safety is well thought through and that we have nothing to be concerned with? That would only be true if we were all public officials not working in the private sector. For some Public Officials, Public Safety is just lip service and this attitude starts at the top, from President Obama, to Governor Deval Patrick, and Mayor Lantigua, and right down to some of the Lawrence City Council Members and even the School Committee. Just take a look at some of the public safety issues that have surfaced over the past few years. President Obama bails out the Auto and Banking Industries while having a blind eye to the lack of Police and Firemen in our cities and towns across the country.

Next we have Governor Deval Patrick returning from a 10 day oversees job finding mission on Friday March 18, and delivers a vote of confidence for Massachusetts Transportation Secretary Jeffrey Mullan even though he learned of a fallen tunnel light on the Tuesday before. “I am confident that Secretary Mullan and his team are doing what they’re supposed to do, I have confidence in him…..” This quote was taken from a Boston Herald Article by Hilary Chabot, Saturday March 19, 2011, “Inspection was deficient, teams failed to detect corrosion on Dig light”. In another article published in the Herald on Thursday March 17, 2011, by Richard Weir, entitled, “Big Dig light mishap a dark secret for 5 weeks”. Mr. Weir wrote the following, “Patrick administration officials kept the public in the dark for five weeks after a 110-pound light casing crashed onto the roadway of the jinxed Big Dig during a February morning commute….”

Closer to home in Lawrence, after one of the most horrific jobs of snow plowing on the streets of the city since I have lived here, (almost 24 years now), some City Councilors during a Council Meeting decided to commend the DPW for the wonderful job they did of snow plowing! One councilor said that under the conditions of cut backs and being under-funded and under manned, and with the little amount of equipment they have, that he thought that the DPW did a great JOB. But the best comment came toward the end of the discussion, one Councilor said that he felt the people’s pain because he too had to travel the same streets and roads that the public had to and then before ending his comments, blamed the “previous administration”. (You just can’t make this stuff up).

In an article published by the Eagle-Tribune, March 19, 2011, by Jill Harmacinski, entitled, Two Lawrence police brutality case tossed, Leonard Degnan, Mayor Lantigua’s chief of staff is quoted as saying of the two suits, “is good for the city and good for the taxpayers”. Mr. Degnan, with all due respect, how about it is good for the Police Officers involved as well! How about showing some respect for the Lawrence Police Department who SERVE and PROTECT and carry out on a daily basis the true meaning of PUBLIC SAFETY in spite of your budget cuts and layoffs of 40 police officers? Oh, I am sorry I forgot who you work for. You work for the Mayor of Lawrence who cowardly goes on Spanish radio and makes UNPROFESSIONAL statements and blames the Police for the rise in car thefts in the city. But this was not the first in a line of incidents where the Mayor has shown his real attitude towards PUBLIC SAFETY and the Lawrence Police Department.

It all started shortly after being sworn in as the Mayor of Lawrence when he demoted Deputy Chief of Police Michael Driscoll to Captain and promoted his campaign manager, Sergeant Melix Bonilla to Deputy Chief of Police. By the way, how is that working out Mr. Mayor and City Councilors? Space isn’t available in this column to go into detail of the well publicized feud between Mayor Lantigua and the Firemen of Lawrence! But I’m confident you all know what took place. There is another article that I would like to bring to your attention and it was published in the Boston Globe on Sunday March 20, 2011 written by Katheleen Conti, entitled, ‘Cut backs amplify border crime”. The article speaks to due to budget cuts of the cities of North Andover and Lawrence, border crime is on the rise. As budget cuts aid in the rise in crime, there still seems to be no solution coming from public officials who were elected to protect the general public.

When we in the private sector have to tighten the belt on spending we do so by setting priorities. But what comes natural to us in the private world just gets too difficult for public officials. Maybe there are too many pockets to line and too many high paying no show jobs for example all the so called non-profit/government/public/private businesses like, BC/BS, NPR/ and the GLCAC. You all know as well as I do that there is too much wasteful spending by the local, state and federal government.

In conclusion, I would like to inform you that when I left the Lawrence School Committee in December 2009, I turned over to them all the documents detailing all the work that was done by the School Safety Sub-Committee which I had the privilege to chair, and the Lawrence Police Department concerning the traffic flow and the Safety of our School children around our neighborhood schools. Up until recently, nothing has been done to further this work. So it is sad to say that even the Lawrence School Committee dropped the ball concerning this issue of the safety of our school children around our schools.

Well my friends, one thing is for sure, as we get closer to the 2011 city elections, make sure you vote for candidates who will make a pledge that Public Safety for all adults and children is a priority. Anything short of this pledge doesn’t deserve your vote! God Bless you all!