Police could work longer shifts, shorter weeks

10-hour shifts can result in more sleep, happier officers, less overtime.

Dayton patrol officers could switch by summer to 10-hour shifts, a proposal aimed at fixing staffing shortages during busy times and improving officers’ health and feelings toward the job.

Dayton administrators are in talks with the police union about compressing the work week for about 165 officers, and both sides have expressed support for changes.

Officers would work four longer days and then get three days off in row.

Some research has found that officers who work 10-hour shifts but shorter weeks often sleep better and feel more content at work. Switching to 10-hour shifts has helped cities curb police overtime, researchers said, which last year cost the city of Dayton about $2.6 million.

“The new environment for law enforcement is half the people, half the money, and so we have a shift structure that causes us to have more staffing than we need at light times and, at times that we need staffing, we just don’t have the flexibility,” said City Manager Warren Price.

About a decade ago, Dayton patrol officers worked four 10-hour days and then had three consecutive days off. But city officials made the police department change back to the more traditional five-day schedule.

The city, police administrators and the Dayton Fraternal Order of Police are working on a memorandum of understanding that would reconfigure the work schedules of officers with the patrol division.

The union represents about 320 officers. But the changes would only cover uniform officers who are assigned to shifts in which they answer calls for service, said Dayton police Chief Richard Biehl.

Price said mathematical modeling has shown that the current shift structure is the least efficient and effective, and four 10-hour shifts provide greater flexibility and better staffing levels at peak hours of activity because of overlapping shifts.

“It would give us a shift structure to staff up when we need it and staff down when we don’t,” Price said.

With overlapping shifts, officers would be able to focus on essential paperwork and enforcement activities because other police personnel will be available to take calls, said Mike Galbraith, president of the Dayton Fraternal Order of Police.

Some major benefits of 10-hour shifts include improvements to morale, safety, performance and quality of life, Galbraith said. The extra day off means officers get more rest and have more free time to spend with their families and take part in leisure activities, he said.

The change also could reduce overtime costs because the overlap could occur during busy periods that presently requires officers to stay on after their shifts have ended, Galbraith said.

Price said alternative shifts could reduce overtime, but he cannot guarantee it will.

A 2011 study published by the Police Foundation found that police agencies that use longer shifts and shorter work weeks have seen significant reductions in overtime.

The study — which looked at officers working eight-, 10- and 12-hour shifts in Detroit, Mich., and Arlington, Texas — found that the 10-hour shifts were the most advantageous, said Karen Amendola, chief behavioral scientist with the Police Foundation, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C.

Working 10-hour shifts meant officers averaged about 175 more hours of rest each year, and they reported being more satisfied with their jobs, she said.

“Generally speaking, the major advantages is getting more sleep and the agency paying significantly less in overtime costs,” Amendola said.

Officers on alternative schedules may get more sleep because they work less overtime, and they may be able to catch up on lost sleep with the extra day off, she said.

Getting more sleep promotes health and reduces fatigue, which can be detrimental and dangerous on the job, officials said.

Price said restructuring the patrol shifts is a necessity, and the goal is for changes to be rolled out by summer, which is a busy time for the police department.

“It’s the right place to do it, right time and right direction to go,” Price said.

The city still needs to negotiate a memorandum of understanding in order for the change to happen. But the overwhelming majority of union members seem to support reconfigured shifts, Galbraith said.

Beavercreek police officers and sergeants in the operations division started working longer hours in 2012 under a 12-hour shift plan.

The alternative schedule allows the department to maximize patrol staffing while reducing overtime and complying with minimum staffing requirements, said Beavercreek police Chief Dennis Evers.

Shifts run from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.

A 12-hour overlap shift covers 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., which has been identified as the period with the highest demand for service, Evers said.

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