Usually, the idea that the government is footing the bill for student loans smacks of progressive fee padding and the bait of the vote.
But a group of Massachusetts lawmakers – on both sides of the aisle – redirected the idea and made it worthy.
As the State House News Service reported, lawmakers are considering bills that would allow the state government to claw back student loan payments from anyone serving in law enforcement, with the goal of recruiting more of young people in the field.
“We are facing a shortage of law enforcement officers in this state, which many of my police chiefs believe could develop into a public safety crisis in the near future if we do nothing. this topic, ”said Rep. Lenny Mirra. (R-Georgetown) said Tuesday. “A lot of people are leaving this field. Very few young people get started. And so we really need to do something about it real quick. “
Mirra testified before the Civil Service Committee on bills offering tuition reimbursement to anyone pursuing a criminal justice degree in Massachusetts (H 2734) and her student loan reimbursement bill (H 2735), which ‘he described it as “a more efficient and faster way to go.”
Under its bill, the state would cover loan payments for anyone who obtains a criminal justice degree or law enforcement certificate from a Massachusetts state college, university, or from a community college, and currently working in Massachusetts for a law enforcement agency, municipal police department, or State Police.
Co-sponsors of his bill include Independent Representative Susannah Whipps from Athol, Democratic Representative Patrick Kearney from Scituate and two Republicans, Representatives Mathew Muratore from Plymouth and Michael Soter from Bellingham.
The idea of a tuition hiatus is undoubtedly a powerful recruiting tool for police services, but the bill serves another purpose: it signals the importance of police work and addresses the profession with a part of the respect which is sorely lacking.
Rep. Tim Whelan (R-Brewster), a former correctional officer and former state police officer, said interest in law enforcement is reflected in the decline in the number of people taking the exam of the public service. Typically, it’s 35,000 a year, he said, but in 2021 it was around 6,000.
Whelan said the committee over the years had often heard from people seeking tuition allowances to boost one area or another, but said others had not been able to comment on what ‘he called “just a complete exhaustion of those interested in a career in law enforcement.”
Local and national calls to “fund the police”, labeling law enforcement as “front-to-back” racists, guilt by association equating bad cops who commit crimes in a state to every officer who wears a badge, pressure to get law enforcement out of schools, restaurants that refused to serve police, and civilians balking at the presence of Back the Blue Flags – the list of defamatory and demoralizing speeches and actions in recent years is alarming and reprehensible.
Besides helping young recruits pay for their education before joining the force, Mirra’s Bill does a lot to restore the high esteem in which law enforcement should be held. Men and women who get a law enforcement certificate or criminal justice degree and use it to keep our communities safe should definitely have their loan tab cleared.
It’s the least we can do.