Debating the merits of the Quinn Bill June 12, 2009
Dan McDonald 508-626-4416 Metrowest Daily News

Nearly 40 years after it was conceived as an incentive for police to receive more education, the Quinn Bill is on the state chopping block.

Gov. Deval Patrick's most recent budget proposal would eliminate the $50 million line item.

House and Senate budget proposal both fund the Quinn Bill at levels significantly below last year — 25 million and $10 million, respectively.

Whatever the dollar amount, Beacon Hill appears poised to reduce the bill in order to make ends meet

The move that could take thousands of dollars out of the pockets of cops throughout Massachusetts.

The bill reimburses police in accordance with their education level.

With the state funding levels police holding associate degrees, police are paid 10 percent of their base pay, bachelor's is 15 percent and a master's is 20 percent.

Depending on the labor contract, some municipalities may have to pick up the slack.

Others do not.

In Framingham, a municipal agreement would take over. Some police would qualify for a stunted pay structure a 7.5 percent boost for associate's, 10 percent for bachelor's, and 15 percent for master's.

But those levels of funding are attached to qualifiers: for those hired after July 1, 1993 they must have a criminal justice degree, while police hired prior to that date, may not be able to fall back on the town's agreement for educational incentives, should the Quinn Bill get stripped of state funding.

While some look at the bill as a cushy perk, among police the prospective cuts have met with dismay and protest.

They balk at the notion of balancing a budget on the backs of cops.

"We shouldn't say a McDonald's manager is more worthy than a police officer, not to denigrate them but they're denigrating us," said Police Lt. Paul Shastany.

But others, like Michael Widmer, executive director of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Association, suggests the bill is outdated and the pay scale too generous.

Today, said Widmer, a college degree for police should be treated more as an expected condition of employment rather than a financial bonus.

However Widmer did say "it's an awfully blunt instrument to zero it out."

In some communities where the municipality will be forced to pick up the state's slack per union contract it could exacerbate the problem.

"While I'm sympathetic to reigning in the costs ... I think a better approach would be to reform the payment structure," said Widmer.

However, Shastany suggested there is a direct correlation between an educated force and solid police performance.

Educated officers perform better, he said, and the more educated the police force, the more corruption and citizen complaints decrease. Job satisfaction is also higher, said Shastany.

Well, at least he admits the corruption part. As though we had not noticed. He'll have to show me some real statistics such as the name of the officers, their education, and their complaint records. Otherwise, he can say whatever he wants.

Some police have to call on a venerable encyclopedia of rules and regulations during a split second to make a decision, he said.

Split second decision making is not made based on your education. Despite their fantastic education, they still overstay their breaks at Dunkin Donuts.

"Policing is not like it was when I first started. We're living in a litigious society," he said. "If you trespass on someone's civil liberties frequently the result is a lawsuit."

How does one begin to respond to an asinine statement like this made by an overpaid but worthless bureaucrat? If you trespass on someone's civil liberties frequently, the result is a lawsuit. No Shit, Sherlock! Did he use to be a police officer in Berlin in 1934? And this idiot is our police spokesperson?

Others, like James Machado, Massachusetts Police Association president, called the proposal to gouge the bill demoralizing.

Speaking anecdotally, Machado said depending on the cut, police could see their salary decrease by $6,000.

He said should the Quinn Bill get gouged "you're going to see an exodus," of people leaving the force and the state would have to spend money and time to train replacements.

"A hundred chiefs could retire. Quite frankly it would be a brain drain," he said.

The state, he said, on its best day could train 500 officers.

"It will leave a great void," he said. "It causes almost as big of a problem as it is meant to solve."

A call to Framingham Chief Financial Officer Mary Ellen Kelley's office was not returned this week.

Framingham spends approximately $650,000 a year on the Quinn Bill.

Police: Quinn Bill cut a huge loss
Sunday, August 1, 2009

In Framingham, where 80 of the force's 118 officers receive Quinn Bill benefits, police have a fallback agreement with the town if the bill is rescinded, said Shastany.

Under that agreement, police with a degree specifically in criminal justice will return to Framingham's pre-Quinn Bill educational incentive, which gives a smaller monetary benefit, he said.

"If your degree is not in criminal justice, your 25 percent may fall to zero," Shastany said.

The alternative educational incentive program gives officers 15 percent for a master's degree, 10 percent for a bachelor's degree, and 7.5 percent for an associates's degree, Shastany said.

"Everyone is concerned. When the town had no money, we took zero - we worked with the town. Knowing we still had the Quinn Bill, we were gracious and grateful. People forget the past, they only think of the present," said Shastany.

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