“It seems that within the Massachusetts State Police, when it comes to the phrase ‘equal pay for equal work,’ we’re missing the mark.” That’s what Trooper Patrick McNamara, the Vice President of the State Police Association of Massachusetts, told lawmakers on Beacon Hill earlier this month. He’s advocating for two identical bills that would incentivize troopers to get a college education while removing a critical disadvantage in the recruitment of quality future troopers.
House Bill 2545 and Senate Bill 1641 are titled ‘An Act relevant to the diverse recruitment and reform of the Massachusetts State Police.’ The bills could establish a career incentive pay program that would offer base salary increases to regular full-time troopers “as an incentive for furthering the education of current officers and recruiting diverse candidates to the state police through future recruitment and the cadet program.”
Under the bills, troopers would earn one point for each semester hour credit earned toward a baccalaureate or an associate degree, 60 points for an associate degree, 120 points for a baccalaureate degree and 150 points for a master or law degree. Base salary increases would be granted in the following manner: 10% increase for 60 points, 20% increase for 120 points and 25% increase for 150 points.
“These bills seek to bring the Massachusetts State Police into the 21st century by closing a pay gap and fulfilling the intent of the diversity recruitment portion of the 2020 police reform law,” McNamara testified before the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security.
Since 2012, troopers have been hired without an educational pay incentive, often times equaling as much as 25% less than the base salary of an equally qualified trooper doing the same job. Troopers lost the ability to collect the Quinn Bill, officially the Police Career Incentive Pay Program, which required the state to provide 10 to 25 percent salary increases to police officers who obtain advanced degrees in criminal justice.
“This is particularly frustrating because it’s occurring at a time when we need to recruit the highly qualified diverse and dedicated pool of candidates is in direct competition with other municipalities in the state who are offering this incentive,” McNamara said.
Modern policing techniques require critical thinking, the ability to analyze complex problems and most importantly effective communication skills. Police officers who skillfully deescalate volatile situations are in high demand. Studies have indicated college educated police officers have a significantly reduced likelihood of using force.
“As a white male trooper, it is impossible for me to speak firsthand about matters of racial injustice,” McNamara said.” However, as a representative of an organization that’s overwhelmingly male and white, it is my duty to speak to the difficulty of recruiting the best possible diverse candidates to become troopers.”
He noted the Massachusetts State Police is battling historically low morale. He called on the committee members to help fix this inequality, noting how pay incentives offered by other cities and towns make recruitment more challenging for the state.
“As we learn more about the challenges faced by those who call on us to respond, as we encounter more and more people burdened by addiction and mental illness and trauma unknown to us when we arrive on scene and as we ask more of law enforcement officers at a time when policing has been more complex, we must also invest in a college educated workforce,” McNamara said.