Police chief will return officers to longer shifts

Move to 8-hour days in 2005 was heavily opposed

Posted: Sunday, July 02, 2006

The Juneau Police Department will move away from eight-hour officer shifts in January, two years after members of the force voiced intense opposition to the move from 12-hour shifts.

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The change, to take place in January 2007, will combine 10- and 12-hour shifts, offering better service to the community and addressing officers' concerns that eight-hour work days - and nights - detracted from family time for many, Chief Greg Browning said Friday.

"It is my desire to move the department to 10-hour patrol shifts," he said. That was the best alternative found by a group in the department studying officer work schedules. "Unfortunately, at this time, our staffing levels do not allow us to move to a 100 percent 10-hour plan. ... Once sufficient staffing levels are achieved, we will move to exclusively 10-hour shifts."

Officers on 10-hour shifts will work four days during a week, while 12-hour officers will work three days with an additional four-hour training block, something also to be worked into the 10-hour officers' time.

Browning was promoted from his post of assistant chief in February, with the resignation of Chief Richard Gummow, who moved officers to eight-hour shifts in January 2005.

Some officers and family members voiced displeasure over the eight-hour shifts to the Juneau Assembly and held a rally in Marine Park, across the street from City Hall, after the shift-change was announced. Opponents noted that two-thirds of the shifts were evening or late-night shifts, and most of the days off weren't going to come on weekends. The 12-hour shifts, on the other hand, provided more days off.

Juneau Chapter president of the Public Safety Employees Association, Officer Paul Comolli, reached out of town, said he could not comment on the change because he did not see the plan. He has been outspoken in his criticism of eight-hour shifts.

In addition to the loss of family time for many officers, he has said eight-hour days are less efficient because a bigger percentage of each shift is lost to briefings and preparation. He has said it is one reason the department has lost officers.

The department this weekend is 12 officers short of the 52 certified officer positions the Assembly has authorized, although because of staffing realities, money wasn't put into the fiscal 2007 budget for two of those positions, Browning said.

Meanwhile, the department recently hired two new officers who must still complete field training. The department also is looking for four officers to be hired from the recent recruitment cycle. Between the law enforcement academy in Sitka and field training, it will take new officers about a year to be on their own on the streets of Juneau, Browning said.

Potential officers didn't ask about the shifts they would be working, he said. "They're just so excited about the prospect of working in law enforcement."

The shift change, he said, is a matter of him looking for the best way to manage officers' schedules. He sees it providing better service to the community.

"Because we're so short-staffed, it makes it difficult to plan officer training," Browning said. "This allows us to have our staff well-trained."

It also will allow the department of overlap shifts during hours where more officers are regularly needed.

The focus is on providing effective police services for the community, he said. "The deployment strategy we use to reach this goal may, and probably will, change from time to time. It's a moving target. As a community and department change, we have to change, too."

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