Lawrence police officers who hold degrees can get extra pay for their educational efforts, but the Douglas County Sheriff's Department doesn't offer such an incentive.
When Capt. Bill Shepard of the Douglas County Sheriff's Department earned his associate's degree this May, it didn't make his paycheck any bigger.
But Lawrence Police Officer Don Hicks will get a raise when he completes his music education bachelor's degree at Kansas University.
The county doesn't pay education incentives to law enforcement officers. But down the hall of the Douglas County Judicial and Law Enforcement Center, the city police department does.
Shepard, who finished a degree he started in 1985 while doing patrol work, says he enjoys his job working for the county and doesn't begrudge police the incremental incentive pay they can earn.
"But we feel like we do the same job, and a lot of time we work hand in hand doing the same job," Shepard said, showing the diploma he earned at Kansas City Kansas Community College.
Sheriff Loren Anderson has asked the county for incentive pay for his employees. He said he requested $54,000 this year to fund an incentive package "very similar" to the police department's. The county said no, Anderson said.
For Shepard, one of the top-ranked officials at the sheriff's department, it's hard knowing he earns less than some city patrol officers drawing incentive pay.
"If you're a young person just starting out, where would you want to go?" the former Marine said.
Finishing what he started
Shepard, a 1962 Lawrence High School graduate, said he always wanted to finish his associate's degree.
But raising a family and doing patrol work made it difficult to find time. The 55-year-old father of five returned to school in fall 1998.
Shepard said that if he were younger, just starting out, incentive pay might encourage him to take the next step -- a bachelor's degree.
No down side to degree
Education incentive pay is a welcome perk, said Hicks, who began work in 1986 on a bachelor's degree in music education.
"I don't like starting something and not finishing it," he said.
Some might question the city rewarding a police officer for studying music, Wheeler said. But the study is put to use by the department, he said. Hicks, a trumpet player, is in the police honor guard and plays taps at various ceremonies. He also serves in the Army Reserve Band.
Hicks also wants assignment someday as a school resource officer for the department. He said he thinks a music education degree would serve him well in that position.
"There's no down side to Hicks getting his degree," Wheeler said.
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