Webinar presenter Peter Bellmio answered a number of your questions after his presentation, “Patrol Work Scheduling.” Here are a few of his responses.
Audience Question: Could you tell what the study was that showed an increase in the risk of injury to officers on a 12-hour shift versus 8 or 10-hour shifts?
Peter Bellmio: I’ll put that slide up again. The references are there on the slides. You can Google shift work and circadian rhythms and find more studies. These findings have been out there for a long time. If you are going down the road to 12-hour shifts important to get the data and research findings on risks for fatigue and injuries.
Audience Question: When moving from one system to another, such as four 10’s to five 8’s. What is the best process for doing that? Should we give staff notice three months out to allow folks to adjust their sleeping schedule etc? What steps would you recommend?
Peter Bellmio: Well, usually the problem becomes picking vacation dates. So yes, I think you hit the nail in the head. It really depends on what the problems that you have and usually we have to fit it some kind of bid date. If you have a fixed shift schedule and you are going to implement a schedule that calls for rotation, you need to make use of research findings on the impact of rotation based on the frequency of cycles. Dr. Brian Vila’s research found that it takes about eight days to recover from a normal rotation forward with the clock. If you Google him, articles will come up.
Audience Question: Our department rotates from 7 am to 3 pm shifts to 11 pm to 7 am shift and then back to a 3 pm to 11 pm shift on a monthly rotation basis. We found that this very hard on the body rotating every month. Do you suggest rotating forward instead of backward if we cannot change our monthly rotation?
Peter Bellmio: Yes, it that takes almost 12 days to recover from a backward rotation. Many of the California departments work in the 28-day cycle in it. If you are rotating forward, within 8 days your body adjusts to the rotation. Rotating forward is really the better choice.
Audience Question: What are some of the ways to sell your patrol officers on a change when the change is in the best interest of Public Safety but not necessarily the most desirable by your officers?
Peter Bellmio: You have to make your business case on why it would be good for officers. Without looking at what you have, you might have to consider that you don’t have the right schedule unless you can demonstrate benefits for patrol officers. There has to be a schedule combination out there that patrol can see as positive that also reasonably meets the needs of your agency and the public we all serve.
Audience Question: How do we strike the balance between meeting the needs of the city and being mindful of the hazards for individual officers?
Peter Bellmio: Some City staff who negotiate wages or evaluate budges look at the dollar cost of a schedule and are not aware of the impact of schedules on patrol officer performance. City staff has to recognize that officers’ well-being is something that the City should care about if they want to encourage retention of the workforce. Lost time, as well as the cost recruiting and training officers, can be minimized by an efficient work schedule that also meets the work-life balance needs of officers.
Audience Question: Overall, are the health and injury risks really that much higher working 12-hour shifts rather than 8 hours? Is there a study that shows achieved levels of decision making for these different shift lengths? I think maybe that previous study that you showed us a little bit of that that maybe you could tap a little more about it?
Peter Bellmio: The other thing that’s a factor there is the level of workload. I think that if you have an urban high-pressure environment, I think that there’s a bigger impact on the 12 hours. Are you also working past 12 hours for overtime? The impact of 12-hour shifts depends on the circumstances would be one answer. Again, Dr. Brian Vila, who was a police officer from California and is now a Ph.D. in Psychology has written extensively about the impact of shift length. It sounds like if your agency is doing okay with it and the situation is that its not a high-risk or a high-workload area or you’re not working on a lot of overtime or you’ve got a young workforce that the twelve hours does not really bother them too much so I think you might want to take a look at your situation and also scratch down a little more if there’s anything more else that you can find out about that’s is maybe not being measured.
Host Aaron Gorrell: I just want to mention that one of our attendees, Jen, from the I believe she is from the Police Foundation, indicated that they have a shift length study by Karen Amendola that may help answer some of the questions and you may find out about that at the policefoundation.org website under their projects. Peter, thank you so much for taking your time with us today and walking through so many of these important things to take into consideration on developing that schedule. Any final closing comments you would like to make?
Peter Bellmio: When developing a new schedule, police managers and planners need to proceed with their eyes wide open and temper the emotion that can sometimes drive those projects. The quick fix to make the troops happy rarely works so you want to try to do something that you can sustain and if you can satisfy those three constituencies, you’re going have that schedule on for a long time. Los Angeles has a flexible work schedule since 1992 or 1993 and it’s been there because it’s in everybody’s interests; the City Councils, the Police Commissions, and the LAPD. It fits the level of workload by hour of day and day of week is the acid test that it really satisfies everybody.