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Why Our Cops Left

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Brian Herr for Select Board

Key Takeaways

  • Between 2021-2022, Hopkinton saw 11 departures from the police department
  • During negotiations with the police union in 2009, the town elected not to fund the Quinn Bill, an education incentive for police officers
  • Neighboring towns saw the opportunity to provide this benefit, and poached our officers

On Tuesday, March 19, the Hopkinton Select Board voted 5-0 to appoint Kyle Quinzani as Hopkinton’s newest police officer. Quinzani is a welcome addition, and will join a department that has struggled with significant levels of turnover and endured questions over Chief of Police Joseph Bennett’s leadership. In point of fact, between 2021 and 2022, 11 sworn officers left the police department, including Titan, the town’s K-9 officer.

While many residents have been quick to blame these departures on Bennett, it is not entirely fair to do so. It’s well-known that the department has suffered from morale issues, due to events such as the untimely death of Mikayla Miller and a lack of promotions in rank. In the handling of these issues, the chief is rightly criticized.

But equally culpable is Town Manager Norman Khumalo and his management of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with the Hopkinton police union in 2009.

The genesis of this begins with legislation from the 1970’s known as the ‘Quinn Bill’.

The Quinn Bill, officially known as the Police Career Incentive Pay Program, is a significant piece of legislation in the history of the Commonwealth, and it was aimed at improving the skills and education of police officers within the state. Enacted in 1970, the bill was named after its proponent, State Representative Martin T. Quinn, who saw the necessity for better-educated police officers in a society with increasingly complex criminal activities.

Under the provisions of the Quinn Bill, officers could receive a salary boost of up to 25% for earning a master’s degree, 20% for a bachelor’s degree, and 10% for an associate degree. This financial incentive encouraged a significant number of police officers in Massachusetts to further their education.

Although the Quinn Bill had been law for nearly 30 years, it wasn’t until around the year 2000 that it went into effect for Hopkinton officers, as part of a revised contract. Some long-serving officers were unhappy about the benefit, many who were stuck at lower salary levels compared to younger recruits with far less experience.

The Quinn Bill was initially designed to be funded equally by the state and municipalities. But the financial crisis of 2008 led Governor Deval Patrick to slash the state’s contribution to the program, leaving towns like Hopkinton on the hook with the additional financial burden. In anticipation of this eventuality, many unions had already negotiated with their towns to protect their members from state cuts, obligating the town to make up the difference. Hopkinton’s police union had not.

Upon the state’s announcement that it would not be funding their portion of the Quinn Bill, the officers in town who were receiving Quinn benefits immediately experienced a pay cut – up to 12.5% for those with a master’s degree. Outraged, the police union took this issue into their contract negotiations with the town in 2009.

After significant back and forth, Khumalo and the town agreed that it would fund the full Quinn amount (including the state’s portion), but only for officers that had joined the department as of the date the contract went into effect, which was July 1, 2010. New hires were explicitly excluded from the benefit.

As time went on, HPD saw several retirements and recruited their replacements, none of whom qualified for the Quinn benefit despite many of them joining the department already in possession of an advanced degree.

“I joined the department and I realized that I basically had the same level of education as the guy next to me, only he’s making 25% more doing the same job,” said one officer who subsequently left the department.

Meanwhile, nearby departments saw a recruiting opportunity and capitalized on it. Towns such as Franklin and Milford offered generous benefits to transfer to their department, including paying the full Quinn amount and applying years of service and vacation time.

“We had guys look at the next town over and realize they could be making $15,000 more per year right away,” said the officer. “Over a twenty-year period that adds up to a lot.”

Finally in 2022, in an effort to stem the tide of departures, the town agreed to an “educational incentive” provision in the police union contract, essentially mirroring the Quinn Bill’s compensation schedule.

In order to be eligible to receive the benefit for a qualifying Associates Degree, Bachelor’s Degree or Master’s Degree, an officer must successfully complete Field Training. The Chief, in their sole discretion, shall determine the qualifying degree. The Chief’s determination as to a qualifying degree will not be arbitrary or capricious but shall not be the subject of a grievance or arbitration,” reads the eligibility provision.

A source within the department, who spoke with HopNews on the condition on anonymity, said “the exodus was not just a ‘Joe Bennett’ thing. It was also a pay thing.”

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Further:

    2009 was an interesting year in Hopkinton

    January 2009 – Gary Daugherty (Fire Chief and Interim Town Mgr) leaving to be Framingham
    FC and a new interim Town Manager was hired for Hopkinton

    Feb 2009 – four finalists are named for the Hopkinton Town Manager position

    June 2009 – Norman Khumalo hired as Town Manager

    I’ve not determined the time period of the HPD contract negotiations, but, as reported, they took place in 2009, when Mr Khumalo was FIRST hired.

    Board of Selectmen – 2009
    Term ends
    Brian Herr (R), Chairman 2010
    Matt Zettek (D) 2010
    RJ Dourney (R) 2011
    Todd Cestari (R) 2012
    Michelle Gates (?) 2012

    From ’Why our Cops Left’
    “But equally culpable is Town Manager Norman Khumalo and his management of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with the Hopkinton police union in 2009.”

    To make that accusation; to lay this failure purely at the feet of Mr Khumalo is disingenuous, it is to not see the forest for the trees.

    • We respectfully disagree. The Town Manager, by charter, is authorized to enter into negotiations with the police union on behalf of the town. The Select Board is not involved in this, with the possible exception of Executive Session, in which members would receive a briefing from the TM and offer their input. Ultimately, the TM brings an acceptable contract for signature to the Chair of the Select Board.

      Also, Human Resources reports to the TM. It should have been obvious to everyone involved that eliminating Quinn benefits would create a strong recruiting disincentive. Yet it was agreed to anyway. It’s apparent why the union members would agree to the contract – they’re only concerned with today’s members, not future members. What is not clear is why the town would put itself in such a difficult recruitment and retention position. That’s just bad business.

  2. “We respectfully disagree. The Town Manager, by charter, is authorized to enter into negotiations with the police union on behalf of the town. The Select Board is not involved in this, with the possible exception of Executive Session, in which members would receive a briefing from the TM and offer their input.

    Ultimately, the TM brings an acceptable contract for signature to the Chair of the Select Board. (Can’t bold emphasis mine)

    Also, Human Resources reports to the TM.

    It should have been obvious to everyone involved that eliminating Quinn benefits would create a strong recruiting disincentive. Yet it was agreed to anyway. (can’t underline emphasis mine)

    It’s apparent why the union members would agree to the contract – they’re only concerned with today’s members, not future members. What is not clear is why the town would put itself in such a difficult recruitment and retention position.

    That’s just bad business. (emphasis mine)”

    Bada bing! Failure all around. Case closed.

    I believe “It’s apparent why the union members … only concerned with today’s members, not future members.” This appears to be the writer’s opinion.

    Some limitations here in presentation, but I trust my meaning is clear.

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