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Mass. court rules against police on education pay

By Denise Lavoie
AP Legal Affairs Writer / March 7, 2012
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BOSTON—Cities and towns in Massachusetts do not have to pay the state's share of a career incentive program that rewards police with higher pay for advancing their education, the state's highest court ruled Wednesday.

The Supreme Judicial Court found that the city of Boston is not obligated to pay its police officers the 50 percent share the state has traditionally paid under the Quinn Bill.

State payments have been greatly reduced in recent years and were completely eliminated in the most recent fiscal year because of budget constraints.

The Boston officers argued in a lawsuit that the city should have to pay its half as well as the state's unfunded portion.

But the court said the law requires only that cities and towns pay their 50 percent, plus any amount received from the state.

"The Legislature in drafting the statute intended a system of shared funding. As such, the statute in the end requires only that municipalities pay one-half the amounts listed in the payment provision, plus any amount actually received from the Commonwealth," Justice Francis Spina wrote for the court in the unanimous decision.

The case was closely watched by cities and towns. If the ruling had gone the other way, some Massachusetts communities would have been required to pay millions of dollars to make up for the state's underfunded half of the program.

A lawyer who represented Boston police patrolmen said they are disappointed with the ruling.

"It's going to result in less educated police officers, and it's going to impact the ability by police chiefs to hire the most qualified officers," said Attorney Bryan Decker. "Municipalities that value and put a premium on a highly educated police force ... have to get creative and think about how to come up with alternative ways to fund that."

The Quinn Bill, first passed by the state Legislature in 1970, calls for participating municipalities to give salary increases of 10 percent to 25 percent to police officers who obtain associate degrees, bachelor's degrees or master's degrees in criminal justice.

The state began cutting funding several years ago amid budget problems.

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