Chief: New shifts help police response, cut OT

Dayton will continue to study effects of 10-hour days.

Early evidence suggests switching Dayton patrol officers to 10-hour shifts has led to less overtime and quicker response and call-clearance times.

Dayton’s 157 patrol officers and some supervisors in mid-June started working four 10-hour days with three days off in a row.

The change from five eight-hour days was intended to address staff shortages during peak-activity times as well as improve officers’ health and feelings about the job.

Initial data tracking officer conduct, dispatch and service times, plus overtime and leave suggest the reconfigured schedules may be improving officer performance and making the department more effective and efficient, said Dayton police Chief Richard Biehl.

“We have more officers working at the times when they are most needed,” Biehl said.

City officials said the sample size is small but encouraging, and they will continue studying the new schedules.

“So far, we are pleased with how the 10-hour shifts are being managed, but we’re obviously keeping a close eye on it because we want to make sure that all of the things we hope to achieve with a 10-hour shifts come to fruition for the citizens,” said Shelley Dickstein, interim city manager.

Earlier this year, Dayton administration and the police union signed a memorandum of understanding so uniformed patrol officers could go to an alternative work schedule.

Dayton patrol officers worked four 10-hour days about a decade ago, but the city objected and made police personnel return to a more traditional schedule.

“Past experience saw increased costs, but we’re pleased how they are being managed to date,” Dickstein said.

Interest in a compressed schedule was renewed because of the department’s struggles to staff high-demand times for police services, city officials said.

Also, some research has found that compressed schedules promote better sleep habits and contribute to officers feeling more content with their jobs.

Police in a variety of U.S. cities, including Beavercreek, have switched to longer shifts with more days off.

Dayton Fraternal Order of Police President Mike Galbraith has said 10-hour shifts have been shown to improve morale, safety, performance and quality of life.

From June 15 to Oct. 4, Dayton patrol officers on average were assigned to priority 3 calls in a little more than 7 minutes — which was about three and half minutes faster than during the same period last year, police data show.

For priority 4 calls, officers were assigned to the calls after about 17 minutes, which is five minutes faster than last year.

Priority 3 calls include complaints regarding arson, domestic disturbances, dangerous animals and fights in progress.

Priority 4 calls include complaints for hit-and-run traffic crashes, burglar alarms and some types of assault.

Patrol officers responded slightly faster to priority 1 calls (shooting victim, accident with injuries, robbery in progress, etc.) but slightly slower for priority 2 calls (robbery alarms, bomb threats, domestic violence, etc).

In addition to quicker dispatching, officers are reducing service times.

The average time it takes officers to clear a call has dropped for all but the most urgent category of priority calls.

Biehl said the longer clearance times for priority 1 calls likely can be attributed to the rash of gun violence and shootings this summer, because those kinds of crimes require labor-intensive police work.

Dayton’s new shifts are designed to overlap during peak periods for calls for service.

Biehl said the new schedules mean more officers are working at the times they are needed and are available to be dispatched to calls.

He said the new schedules seem to be reducing service delays, which were especially common during shift changes.

Biehl said police staffing levels are down from past years, and officers cannot afford to remain at crime and emergency scenes for longer than they need to be there. Dayton has 25 fewer patrol officers than in 2014.

“We need to provide quality, professional service, but once we are done we need to move on,” Biehl said.

City leaders were concerned that the new work arrangement could increase costs.

But since instituting the new schedules, overtime for patrol officers has declined in most areas, police data show.

Between mid-June and early October, regular overtime decreased by 54 percent and saturation overtime is down 13 percent.

Saturation overtime refers to the increased staffing levels during the busiest times over the summer.

During that 15-week period, patrol officers also took 6 percent less sick leave than last year and overall court-related overtime is down 1 percent.

Some types of court-related overtime have increased, but police officials said that was to be expected considering officers have three days off and will need need overtime to attend trials and court hearings on their days off.

The evidence so far suggests the alternative work schedule has improved police responsiveness to citizens while being cost neutral or will be less expensive than the traditional work schedules, Biehl said.

The agreement with the Dayton Fraternal Order of Police calls for evaluating the reconfigured schedules at the end of December. But officials said it could take a year to have enough data to fully understand the impact of the change.

“The data is promising at this point, but far from conclusive,” Biehl said.

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