Bargaining in Blue, a monthly newsletter from Ballotpedia, provides news and information on police collective bargaining agreements (CBAs), including the latest news, policy debates, and insights from Ballotpedia’s analysis of police CBAs in all 50 states and the top 100 cities by population.
In this month’s edition of Bargaining in Blue, we examine higher education requirements and incentives for law enforcement officers. We review a new CBA in Boston, Massachusetts, that expands higher education incentives for law enforcement officers; scholarly arguments about higher education requirements and incentive plans for law enforcement officers; and insights on the topic from Ballotpedia’s analysis of police CBAs in all 50 states and the top 100 cities by population.
In this edition:
- On the beat: Boston expands educational incentive plan in new police collective bargaining agreement
- Around the table: Arguments from the negotiating table, scholars, and the media on higher education requirements and incentives for law enforcement officers
- Insights: A closer look at higher education requirements for law enforcement officers in CBAs and key takeaways from Ballotpedia’s analysis
On the beat
Boston expands educational incentive plan in new police collective bargaining agreement
Boston Mayor Michelle Wu (D) announced on December 5, 2023, a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association (BPPA) that includes changes to provisions regarding educational incentives, discipline, pay, and benefits.
The amended CBA covers several provisions, including the expansion of the agreement’s educational incentive plan. The provisions of the plan grant salary increases to law enforcement officers who earn college credit hours or complete associate’s degrees, bachelor’s degrees, or master’s degrees at certain qualified schools and in certain degree areas related to policing. The changes also expanded the plan to allow more schools and degree programs to qualify in an effort to align “with the skills and training to further enhance community policing and improve organizational management,” according to the mayor’s statement.
BPPA and the city of Boston’s previous CBA expired on June 30, 2020, at which time the parties entered into contract negotiations. The new contract was ratified on December 3 and December 4, 2023, and will remain in effect until June 30, 2025.
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Around the table
Arguments about higher education requirements and incentives for law enforcement officers
The editorial team for policeofficer.org, an online career resource for law enforcement officers and individuals planning to become law enforcement officers, argued in a 2022 article about the benefits of higher education for police officers. The team argued that higher education can broaden officers’ perspectives and provide them with what they referred to as “a leg up against the competition” regarding promotions and recruitment:
Police work is a detailed and complex field of employment. Pursuing advanced studies in an applicable field can improve your overall awareness and understanding of the job. It can lead to a more advanced understanding of laws, procedures, theories, and concepts that will improve your ability to perform as a law enforcement officer. The more you know about concepts such as the law at federal, state, and local levels, civil rights, hate crimes, and current issues faced by public servants and law enforcement professionals, the better able you will be to relate to the public and function in your job.
Journalists Brett Rowland and Tom Gantert published a 2022 article in The Center Square discussing educational incentive pay plans for law enforcement officers. Rowland and Gantert wrote about Boston’s first iteration of the plan, titled the Quinn Bill, arguing that the program’s high costs and minimal academic requirements yielded little benefit:
Massachusetts lawmakers passed the Quinn Bill in 1970 three years after the Johnson Crime Commission released a report that recommended more education for police officers. But the state law soon came under fire from the Boston Globe’s Spotlight Team in 1985 for its high costs and the low academic requirements for police officers. A 2003 report from the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, a nonpartisan research organization, found little benefit to the program.
Boston CBA on higher education requirements or incentives for law enforcement officers
The Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association (BPPA) entered into a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the city of Boston, Massachusetts, on December 5, 2023. The CBA does not require higher education for police officers, however, it outlines changes to the educational incentive plan, which rewards higher salaries to law enforcement officers who complete advanced degrees or college credits.
The CBA between the city of Boston and the BPPA states the following:
The parties agree that officers will no longer have to go through the administrative process of the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education to participate in Article XVII A, Section 1’s educational incentive plan. Any officer currently receiving benefits pursuant to the Quinn Bill will continue to receive such benefits. Any officer not eligible to receive benefits pursuant to the Quinn Bill will be entitled to receive equivalent educational benefits (i.e. 10% for an Associate Degree, 20% for a Bachelor’s Degree or Master’s J/D) if they have a qualifying degree from a qualifying school. The following will be qualifying schools: All schools certified by the Board of Higher Education to receive Quinn Benefits, the University of Massachusetts System, Northeastern University, and Boston University. The following will be qualifying degrees: any Quinn qualifying degree and any degrees in Sociology, Psychology, and Public Administration. Nothing in this provision lessens any benefit officers currently receive under Article XVII A, Section 1
The CBA covers the period from July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2025.
Key takeaways on higher education requirements or incentives in CBAs
Ballotpedia’s analysis of police CBAs in all 50 states and the top 100 cities by population featured the following information about higher education requirements and incentives in police CBAs, as of December 2023:
- There are 17 state CBAs and 60 city CBAs that require or incentivize college or post-secondary education for law enforcement officers
- There are nine state CBAs and 19 city CBAs that do not require or incentivize college or post-secondary education for law enforcement officers
- There are 22 states and 21 cities that do not have police CBAs
- There are two states and one city in which the request for information on police CBAs was denied or information could not be verified