By Andy Metzger
State House News Service
BOSTON -- Facing another year with no state funding for a local police-education-incentive program, law-enforcement officers have renounced a bill that would allow some municipalities to halve the funding they agreed to in negotiations.
"It's what they've agreed to, but now they come to the Legislature and they say, 'Get us out of this. We don't want to pay it. We told them that at the bargaining table, but we really don't want to do it. And that's sad, it really is sad to use the legislative process to actually manipulate the collective-bargaining process," Boston Police Patrolman's Association lobbyist James Barry told the News Service.
The bill, filed by House Ways and Means Committee Vice Chairman Rep. Stephen Kulik, D-Worthington, would set in law that cities and towns are only obligated to pay their half of the education incentive known as the Quinn bill, leaving the rest of the funding entirely up to the state.
In cases where cities and towns have agreed in contracts to make up any shortfall from the state, the bill would take effect after the term of the contract, and would then overrule any existing language about cities or towns taking on the state's funding burden.
"Currently the state is paying zero percent of their portion of the obligation," said Katie McCue, legislative analyst for the Massachusetts Municipal Association.
"We're not always as reliable as we want to be," said Rep. Paul Brodeur, a Melrose Democrat.
Senate Public Service Committee Chairman William Brownsberger, a Belmont Democrat, indicated some support for the education incentive known formally as the Police Career Incentive Pay Program.
"I've always supported encouraging officers to get education. I think it's a great thing for the system, so we've got to think about how these pieces fit into that larger priority," Brownsberger said.
House Public Service Chairman Aaron Michlewitz, a Boston Democrat, said Tuesday was his first opportunity to hear public testimony on the proposal.
Barry said after being cut precipitously a few years ago, Quinn bill funding to municipalities has been nonexistent, though he noted the state continues to pay its portion toward State Police.
He said the bill Kulik filed has been filed before and he doesn't anticipate it gaining much traction.
"An educated police officer is a better police officer. There's no doubt about it," Barry said, saying education improves the quality of police reports and the comfort of officers in a range of social situations.
Though the incentive funding may have been halved, Barry said the time and money officers spend to receive advanced degrees remains the same.
"You still have hundreds if not thousands of officers that are now cut 50 percent that are now still burdened with their loans," Barry said.
The varying levels of participation and contractual language have created a quiltwork across the state, according to James Machado, executive director of the Massachusetts Police Association and a sergeant with the Fall River Police.
"They're kind of all over the map on this?" Brodeur asked Machado.
"Absolutely," Machado replied.