Special committee releases police education recommendations

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The Massachusetts Department of Higher Education’s Ad Hoc Committee on Police Education and Training released its final report and recommendations this summer.
 
The committee recommends that officers in Massachusetts have “a minimum of an associate’s degree in Criminal Justice, a related field, or a field of study authorized by the hiring department/agency.”
 
The committee, which met from last fall through this spring, was charged with developing recommendations for minimum education requirements for officers throughout the Commonwealth, as well as determining a mechanism to develop statewide agreement on credit for prior learning experience and modifications to the Police Career Incentive Pay Program (also known as the Quinn Bill).
 
The committee’s recommendation for an increased education requirement is based on a body of evidence that shows improved policing outcomes for communities that have higher educational requirements. Communities with higher education requirements saw fewer complaints filed against police, more positive relationships between police and residents, and fewer instances of firearms being used in the line of duty.
 
The only education requirement currently in place for officers is a high school diploma or HiSET (High School Equivalency Test, formerly the GED).
 
With regards to developing a statewide agreement on assessing credit for prior learning experience, the committee acknowledged that further work is needed and called for a new working group comprised of higher education and policy academy officials to work out the details of such an agreement.
 
The committee also recommends that the guidelines for the Police Career Incentive Pay Program be changed to allow for credit from previous learning, military or police experience to be counted toward a degree on a case-by-case basis, as assessed by regionally accredited institutions.
 
The report is the final work of the committee, but the discussion is expected to continue. It now falls to the Baker administration and legislators to adopt any of the recommendations as policy or statute.
 
This is particularly true in terms of education requirements for police officers. Municipalities that have left the Civil Service system can already require additional education for officers, but those still in Civil Service cannot.
 
Raising the minimum threshold for education requirements would likely require further modifications to the Police Career Incentive Pay Program and equivalent municipal policies. If all future officers are to be required to have an associate’s degree at a minimum, incentive pay for education will need be to adjusted accordingly to acknowledge the new minimum.
 
The MMA was invited to participate in the meetings of the committee as it developed its report and provided input as requested.
 
The Board of Higher Education is weighing how to proceed with the committee’s recommendations.
 
Download the full report (460K PDF)