Long Work Hours, Shift Schedules and the Impact on Law Enforcement Personnel

Long Work Hours, Shift Schedules and the Impact on Law Enforcement Personnel
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1Module 1
Recorded on: 2023-05-16
Unit 1Presentation Materials: Long Work Hours, Shift Schedules and the Impact on Law Enforcement Personnel
Unit 2Transcript: Long Work Hours, Shift Schedules and the Impact on Law Enforcement Personnel
Unit 3Workbook: Long Work Hours, Shift Schedules and the Impact on Law Enforcement Personnel
Unit 4Recording: Long Work Hours, Shift Schedules and the Impact on Law Enforcement Personnel

Insufficient sleep brought about by long work hours can lead to increased fatigue, decreased cognitive performance, and impaired decision-making abilities. In the law enforcement profession, the impact of lack of sleep can translate to a threat to public safety. This session provides evidence on how shift schedules and long work hours can impact officers’ sleep and consequently their wellness and job performance.

Leading the webinar is Karen L. Amendola, the current Chief Behavioral Scientist at the National Policing Institute. She’s been with the NPI for over 25 years and has worked in the areas of research, testing, training, and assessment. She has collaborated with numerous local, state, and federal agencies, offering her expertise in officer safety, health, and wellness.

Specifics she covered in her discussion include:

  • A backgrounder on the National Policing Institute, and its work and mission to uphold evidence-based approach.
  • What evidence-based practice is, its importance, and pointers on the quality of evidence available.
  • Headlines of tired and sleeping cops and the importance of viewing this not merely as a disciplinary issue and examining its root cause.
  • Self-reported sleep data in studies indicating that officers are actually sleep deprived.
  • The recommended length of sleep according to the National Sleep Foundation.
  • A rundown of potential adverse health impacts of inadequate sleep.
  • The innovative approach of allowing officers to take naps on the job implemented in select agencies.
  • The value in organizations understanding the implications of inadequate sleep due to long shifts in terms of officer and community safety in terms of:
    • Cognitive impairment that at certain points may be equivalent to or more severe than the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) limit.
    • Public complaints due to fatigue, sleepiness, and working night shifts, higher resistance among subjects, and greater safety concerns.
    • Increased absenteeism potentially due to higher susceptibility to illness.
    • Decreased performance and alertness and higher levels of fatigue.
    • Risk for short-term and long-term physical and health problems, increased burnout, emotional exhaustion, and worsened communication.
  • Findings from various studies conducted in policing and other industries on:
    • The impacts of long shifts on officers’ work performance, health and quality of life, their ability to interact with community members, and risk of injury.
    • How healthcare professionals experienced reduced productivity, decreased physical capacity, and increased errors when sleep-deprived and fatigued.
  • Debunking the myth that 12-hour shifts cost less and how this actually results in higher police overtime costs and negative outcomes in terms of productivity and efficiency and how 10-hour shifts may be more advantageous.
  • How agencies and their respective shift policies as well as associations and unions must consider evidence-based findings if they want officers to be effective in their roles of keeping the community and themselves safe.
  • Recommendations for the agency and the individual to encourage and prioritize sleep, manage overtime, limit work hours, and seek support for sleep disorders.

Questions from the webinar attendees are about:

  • Similar research in corrections and applying the same principles in corrections.
  • How sleep deprivation must be seen as a risk management issue.
  • Studies correlating sleep to use of force incidents and/or civilian complaints.
  • Getting law enforcement command staff to understand the evidence behind the impact of long-shift hours on agency productivity and personnel wellness.



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Resources and Handouts


Audience Comments

  • “Dr. Amendola was a great presenter. She was very knowledgeable and passionate about the effects of long shifts in policing. I learned a lot and will be having discussions with people in my agency about this information.” — Amy
  • “The need to really look at changing to 10-hour shifts, we currently have the bulk of our teams working 12.25-hour shifts. Great information.” — Deanna
  • “Such little research has been done with regard to fatigue and policing. I’m glad to see some recent studies.” — Lori
  • “The in-depth knowledge of the Presenter and the passion she exhibited during this presentation was AWESOME! Thank You.” — Vivian



About the National Policing Institute: Formerly known as the National Police Foundation, the National Policing Institute’s mission is to pursue excellence in policing through innovation and science. It is the oldest nationally-known, non-profit, non-partisan, and non-membership-driven organization dedicated to improving America’s most noble profession – policing.

The National Policing Institute has been on the cutting edge of police innovation for over 50 years since it was established by the Ford Foundation as a result of the President’s Commission on the Challenge of Crime in a Free Society (1967) and the related conclusions of the Kerner and Eisenhower Commissions, taking place during the same era.



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