As you no doubt know if you are a reader of this blog, many police contracts contain provisions which seek to “modify” the educational incentive benefits granted by the Quinn Bill. Under the Quinn Bill, M.G.L. c. 41, §108L, qualified officers receive salary increases from 10-25% based on the attainment of criminal justice related college degrees. The Quinn Bill is a local option statute, meaning that it only applies in municipalities that voluntarily adopt it. In addition, the Quinn bill states that the state will reimburse Towns for one half of monies spent on Quinn Bill benefits.
The contract provisions modifying the Quinn Bill generally allow municipalities to cut pay to officers in the event that the Commonwealth fails to fully reimburse 50% of Quinn Bill expenditures. In other words, the contracts allow the municipalities to pass 100% of a targeted local aid cut onto officers.
Because the Quinn Bill is not a statute that can be modified by collective bargaining, several lawsuits have been filed across the state seeking to invalidate contract provisions that cut Quinn benefits. The first suit was filed by Sandulli Grace representing officers in Mashpee, where the local union is an affiliate of the Massachusetts Coalition of Police. Sandulli Grace also represents officers in a separate case filed in Boston.
Late last year, the Supreme Judicial Court agreed to pluck the Boston case out of Superior Court and hear it in the first instance. Today, we filed our brief in chief in the case. You can read it here. The case is actually quite straightforward – the Quinn Bill cannot be legally modified by collective bargaining, and therefore officers must be paid their full benefit, regardless of any collective bargaining agreement allowing otherwise. While the Boston case was transferred to the SJC before any decision was rendered below, the Middlesex Superior Court did issue a finding consistent with our position last month in a case involving North Reading. You can read about the North Reading case at pages 11-13 of our brief.
We’re very hopeful that the SJC will agree with us and rule that police officers who have diligently pursued advanced education for the benefit of their employer and themselves should be paid their full Quinn Benefits. After the City of Boston files its brief and we reply, the court will set the case for oral argument. We hope that this will occur in the spring, and that we have a decision not long thereafter. Of course, we’ll keep you posted.