QUINCY, Mass. —
5 Investigates has uncovered a controversial policing perk costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. The money is meant for officers working the night shift, but after digging through the data our investigation found many police officers in one city are pocketing thousands in extra night pay even though they are working days.
That extra pay is known as night differential and it is supposed to be an incentive for officers who work less desirable night shifts, but we found in Quincy, officers on other shifts are cashing in too.
Night falls on the Quincy Police Department and officers working the 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. shift and the overnight are on patrol, fighting crime, working to keep the city safe, and because they put in those untraditional hours, they earn the night differential, which amounts to thousands of dollars a year in extra pay.
But when 5 Investigates dug into Quincy Police payroll data from the past two years we found officers working shifts in broad daylight cashing in on that perk.
“It just doesn’t make sense that you get paid night differential during the daytime at all,” said George Price, a former federal agent and prosecutor who reviewed the city’s contracts and payroll records obtained by 5 Investigates.
“It kind of flies in the face of logic that you would make a night differential during the daytime,” he said. “Why do they even call it that and why are you even paying that?”
Records show the city shelled out $1.7 million for night differential pay in 2019, and $521,067 went to officers working days, some boosting their annual earnings between $10,000 and $20,000 a year. When they retire, that extra pay will also boost their taxpayer-funded pensions.
5 Investigates discovered officers receiving the night differential included school resource officers, police prosecutors who prepare cases for court, supervisors in charge of day patrols, the department grant writer and even the head of internal affairs.
Quincy Police Chief Paul Keenan defends the perk, which is clearly spelled out in union contracts with the city and allows certain officers working days to get the extra night pay.
“I don’t believe it’s wasted money,” Keenan said. “I think it’s actually making the department more effective and efficient in the way that it operates. I don’t pay people overtime when they get called at night unless there’s a specific reason they need to be paid on overtime.”
Eileen McAnneny, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation said the pandemic is putting enormous stress on the state budget.
“As a state fiscal watchdog, I can tell you that we’re projecting that the state will face a $3.9 billion revenue shortfall in fiscal year 2021,” she said.
McAnneny said cities and towns can expect to take a hit in local aid and that now more than ever, every dollar counts.
“We want to make sure we’re using every taxpayer dollar optimally,” she said. “And to the extent it is adding cost to pensions, they are already, you know, challenging for a lot of municipalities.”
There are also questions involving another monetary incentive offered to police officers in Quincy. They also get extra pay if they earn law degrees or degrees in criminal justice.
It is incentive pay commonly known as Quinn Bill money, and records obtained by 5 Investigates show some officers are receiving it for degrees not covered under the union contract and others are getting more money than they should.
We discovered a few officers scrambling to get degrees online after we began asking questions about the benefit.
Keenan also defended the higher education perk. “Anyone that’s put in for that, it’s been reviewed, and they’ve been compensated for their degrees,” he said.
Keenan said he values education and allows the education incentive for college degrees in all disciplines. Sources told 5 Investigates that questions about these incentives have come up in ongoing outside investigations involving the Quincy Police Department.