DURING CONTRACT negotiations with the police union more than a decade ago, Boston officials had the foresight to insist that they would pay only half of the so-called Quinn Bill benefits that accrue to police officers who earn criminal justice degrees. But now that the state has washed its hands of picking up the other 50 percent of the pay increases, as originally envisioned, police officers in Boston are suing the city to make up the difference - to the tune of $10 million annually. It’s a request the Supreme Judicial Court should reject, not just for Boston’s sake but also for the good of taxpayers in scores of other cities and towns.
The Boston Police, and officers in other departments across the state, agreed to contract provisions that absolved cities and towns from paying the full freight should the state fall on hard times and stop funding the educational incentive program. But now that the state has done just that, the officers argue narrowly that a collective-bargaining deal can’t legally override what they were entitled to under the Quinn Bill, and that if the state won’t pay the municipalities must. In short, the police are trying to wiggle out of an agreement they willingly signed on to.
The Supreme Judicial Court, which has agreed to hear the Boston case, would do well to reject the police suit and consider instead a brief filed by the Massachusetts Municipal Association. The umbrella group for cities and towns asserts that the original cost-sharing arrangement has been changed so radically that the Quinn Bill itself should be invalidated.
State law says nothing about what happens if the state refuses to pay its share. But the impact of a ruling in favor of the police would leave cities and towns holding the bag for more than $50 million annually. That would likely result in the layoffs of some officers to pay out windfalls to others.
Cities and towns got taken when they agreed to raises of 10 to 25 percent for officers earning degrees in criminal justice, especially when many degrees turned out to have been earned in diploma mills. A legitimate college degree should be a minimum requirement for anyone tackling the complexities of police work, not a financial incentive. Even at half the cost, the Quinn Bill is a boondoggle.