Poor reasoning in police shift change

Letter to the editor

Posted: Tuesday, January 04, 2005

I read with interest the chief of police's decision to move patrol from a 12-hour shift to an eight hour shift. I was particularly interested in the reasons he cites as why he is making this unpopular and, ultimately, inefficient move.

The chief implies that an eight-hour shift will result in better communication with the district attorney's office and citizens. He does not adequately explain this and omits the fact that an officer working a midnight-to-8 a.m. shift will have less contact with the public and DA than an officer working the current 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. shift. Departmental communication with the district attorney's office and the public is not a scheduling issue, it is a management issue. Officers will still be working when everyone else is sleeping no matter what schedule one comes up with. Chiefs, captains and lieutenants are there to make sure that there is seamless communication throughout a 24-hour workday.

Secondly, the chief has to add four more police officers to cover the new eight-hour schedule. The chief's reasons for why Juneau Police Department went to the 12-hour shifts in the first place still hold true today. A 12-hour shift puts more officers on the street with less total personnel. It is more efficient, plain and simple. The fact is that it takes more police officers to cover eight-hour shifts than it does to cover 12-hour shifts. It is puzzling as to why the Juneau Assembly would allow the chief of police to increase his budget, put fewer officers on the street, provide for fewer training hours, and demoralize the rank and file.

Finally, it would be disconcerting at best to just gloss over the concept of morale within a police department. Juneau has a good relationship with its police officers. Officers stay at JPD because of the department's professionalism, standards, work environment, and, yes, schedule. To brush aside the intangibles of family life and morale for the sake of "fixing" the specifically undefined problem of "communication" is in poor judgment.

Twelve-hour shifts are a win-win situation. Taxpayers win by paying less money for more officers on the streets and the rank and file win by having more quality time with their families. Citizens should take interest in this issue, as it does and will have an effect on everyone.

Leon Morgan


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