My Turn: Police shift change bad for city

Posted: Tuesday, January 18, 2005

I want to express my outrage regarding the decision by Juneau Police Department administration to force police officers into 8 eight-hour shifts. I am a nurse and have worked shift work for most of my adult life. I've worked eights, 12s, 16s, and have rotated shifts. I can say from personal experience that by far the most reasonable schedule I ever worked was 12-hour shifts.

There are many reasons that 12-hour shifts work well: Employees who have enough personal time between shifts are apt to be more reliable, more productive, happier employees. People who have time to recharge their batteries with family, friends, rest, activities, etc., are ready to work when they get to work. There have been many studies done on the effects of shift work on the human body and the ones that I know of state that human beings' diurnal clocks are more in sync with a 24-hour cycle. Diurnal means two, by the way, i.e. 12 hours times two.

I enjoy going out on the odd Friday night and I like to do that downtown. I live in the Valley. I like the fact that I see officers patrolling downtown on foot. They come into every bar, talk to people and are part of the fabric of nightlife on the weekend. They help make sure folks aren't out there driving drunk. I see them on Egan, cruising between the Valley and town; I feel safer.

If shifts go to eight hours, the shift change is going to be happening at one of the busiest times on a weekend night and on those dark school mornings when our children are crossing the street. There will be fewer officers on each shift. They can't all have weekends off, so how do you decide which family can do without one parent on weekends, holidays, birthdays, school events?

The chief cites communication problems between administration and patrol officers. If this is the case my experience has been that the lack of communication is usually from the top down. After reading the paper and anything else I could for information as to why the chief of police thinks this is a good idea, I'm still baffled. I have yet to see or hear an argument based on fact and research that supports this move. Unfortunately, because of this, my family will suffer by having less police protection, being asked to pay more for the "privilege" of living in Juneau with higher property taxes, which will surely come to pass because, as usual, the city manager, the police chief and fiscal managers didn't figure the cost of the extra shift differentials, added administrative time and the eventual lawsuit that the city of Juneau will most certainly lose. And for what? To make a very demanding, thankless job into an even more difficult job?

It's disheartening to see the folks who purport to have Juneau's best interests at heart completely disregard the concerns of one of the most critical and underappreciated group of city employees in this town: our police officers.

I support the officers of JPD and the continuation of 12-hour shifts.

• Julie Rehfeld is a registered nurse who works for the state.

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