Group to study new police shifts

Union reps say group should have been organized long ago

Posted: Thursday, February 03, 2005

Almost one month after Juneau Police Chief Richard Gummow changed patrol officers' shift from 12 hours to eight, the department is ready to evaluate the new shift's effectiveness.

Department administrators recently organized an assessment group, which met for the first time Wednesday afternoon.

But union representatives said such a group should have been organized long before Gummow proposed the change four months ago.

"This is an attempt to show police officers that he is considering options, but he clearly is not," said Officer Paul Comolli, who has worked for the department for 16 years. "We offered him suggestions before the shift change. But the suggestions were not considered."

Assistant Chief Gregory Browning said the chief didn't establish such a study group before because he had been aware of the ineffectiveness of the 12-hour shift.

Gummow said the 12-hour shift caused lack of consistent officer presence and delays in completing investigations. The 12-hour-shift had been in place since January of 1995

The shift change to eight hours, which started Jan. 10, has drawn opposition within the department. Officers initiated campaigns to petition the Juneau Assembly and rallied on the street to fight against the proposal. The officers said some of them might not get a weekend day off for a year due to staffing needs and seniority.

Browning stressed that the chief is still open to new alternatives.

"The chief is not married to the eight-hour shift," Browning said. "He is open to make adjustments if necessary."

Browning said he believes that group members will come up with innovative alternatives. He appointed people from across the police department - patrol officers, investigators, sergeants, administrators and an accountant - to the group. It includes opponents and supporters of the shift change.

"Deploying police staff is quite complicated," Browning said. "You cannot solve the issue in a few weeks."

Group member Sgt. Kris Sell said the timing for establishing such a group is right.

"Some officers had not experienced anything other than the 12-hour shift," said Sell, who personally supports an eight-hour shift. "Now that people have experienced the eight-hour shift, we have the best environment to find a hybrid of the two."

"The committee is the offspring of the debate," Sell said. "The issue has been divisive. This is an opportunity to get together as a team."

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