, Newburyport, MA

July 19, 2013

Braving the heat

Police officers find relief in kindness of passing motorists

By Dave Rogers
Staff Writer

---- — As a seemingly endless heat wave continues to blanket the region with temperatures past 90 degrees, the daily routines of thousands of people are tested.

For those lucky enough to stay indoors, air conditioners, fans and an endless supply of liquids are available.

But for many, be they letter carriers, construction crews, landscapers, police officers or firefighters, there is no choice but to brave the heat, look for shade where you can find it and bring along as much water as you can.

Among those endeavoring to stay cool yesterday was a handful of police officers working construction details across the region.

In Salisbury, at the intersection of Route 286 and Pike Street, officers James Pollard and Michael Alder were directing traffic as a road crew placed a layer of hot top over the busy stretch of road. Fortunately for the two officers, the area was sprinkled with large shade trees, allowing them a respite from the sun’s powerful rays, an opportunity not available to the work crew laying down the steaming road surface.

“These guys, I don’t know how they do it,” Alder said.

Alder and Pollard said they began their shift at 7 a.m. and were expected to be there until 3 p.m. or whenever the work crew called it quits for the day. Eventually, the intersection will feature state-of-the-art traffic lights allowing for improved traffic flow and reducing the chances of collisions.

In addition to shade trees and lighter clothes, the Salisbury officers benefited from the kindness of strangers or, in this case, passing motorists. During the day, drivers with a heart would stop by the officers and hand them bottled water and coffee.

“We appreciate that — keep them coming,” Alder said.

Compared to officers in other departments, Salisbury officers have the option of wearing lighter patrol duty uniforms and baseball caps thanks to a recent relaxing of uniform requirements by Salisbury police Chief Thomas Fowler. The bright yellow patrol duty uniforms, also worn by bicycle patrol officers, is made of lighter, tighter-fitting fabric.

“We’re comfortable,” Pollard said.

Across the river in Newburyport, officer Christopher McDonald was watching a work crew map out a section of Jefferson Street where National Grid will be installing a new gas main.

Unlike his Salisbury brethren, McDonald is wearing his normal polyester uniform with official police hat. Underneath his dark blue shirt was a white T-shirt that he said he wears because polyester can become uncomfortable as a day goes by. Thankfully, McDonald is able to retreat to the relative coolness of the many shade trees that line the quiet residential street tucked in between Merrimac and High streets.

McDonald said the kindness practiced over in Salisbury is also evident in Newburyport where motorists and some homeworkers will hand him ice water.

Asked if he’d prefer working in extreme heat or well-below freezing cold, McDonald said: “I’d take a day like this. The cold is painful. The heat you can deal with it: water, shade.”

McDonald said he knew it would be a scorcher when he signed up to work yesterday’s detail but added with three young children into ice hockey, the extra money comes in handy.

“It does hurt when they’re on their way to the beach and I’m here,” McDonald confessed.