Police launch new protest of shift change

Officers have also enlisted help of a management consultant

Posted: Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Juneau police officers are ready to take their frustrations to the street.

Upset with Chief Richard Gummow's proposal to change their shift from 12 hours to eight hours, patrol officers will hold a rally at noon Wednesday at Marine Park along with family members and supporters.

Police officer Paul Comolli said the officers have made bumper stickers that say, "Why chief?" and 100 T-shirts with the printed message, "12 must stay. 8 no way. I support Juneau police officers and their families." They also have enlisted help from a management consultant, Skip Bennett, who created a Web site to support the 12-hour shift.

Comolli said the officers want to let the citizens know how inefficient and wasteful the eight-hour shift will be.

Since Gummow announced in late September that the city's 35 patrol officers will work eight hours a day, five days a week, police officers and their union representatives have criticized the proposal and requested bargaining with the chief.

City Manager Rod Swope said the unions don't have the right to bargain working hours.

"That the management has the authority to make shift changes lies in the contract," Swope said.

Comolli said the proposal has affected the morale because the change will decrease the officers' family time. "One officer left and many others are considering leaving," he said.

Patrolman Rayme Vinson, who has worked in the department for about 11 years, decided to make this month his last with the department partly because of the shift change.

"I'd like to get out of there while things are running smoothly," said Vinson, who decided to retire from the department at the end of January. He has worked for 33 years as a police officer in Alaska, including stints in Valdez and the North Slope Borough.

Vinson said he sees the issue polarizing the officers and the administration. "It's not going to be a fun workplace."

Gummow said he had expected that his proposal would generate great opposition from the officers but he is convinced that the shift change will improve communication, efficiency and case continuity.

"I am always concerned about morale but that is not the only thing I need to consider when making a decision," Gummow said.

Vinson said many of the officers came to work in Juneau because of the department's 12-hour shift schedule. But what he sees missing in the debate - making it most polarizing - is a compromise third option.

"There are so many people in this town who do labor negotiations," he said. He believes there are plenty of people in state and federal government "who don't have a dog in this fight" who could negotiate something both sides could live with.

At 51, Vinson said he is too young to sit around the house, and considering the cost of living in Juneau, he expects he will get another job.

He said one of his options could be to work as a police officer in the North Slope Borough, 1,200 miles away. Some officers work two weeks on duty and two weeks off, which he would spend in Juneau.

"If I worked in Barrow or Point Hope, I'd have more days off with my family," he said.

• I-Chun Che can be reached at ichun.che@juneauempire.com.

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