Police to get permanent shifts

Published 7:48 pm Monday, October 25, 2010

The Suffolk Police Department will be changing its patrol schedules in January to respond to patrol officers’ wishes and better serve the community.

Officers will begin serving on permanent shifts, rather than rotating among day, evening and midnight shifts every two weeks as they currently do. The change will allow officers to be on better-defined sleep schedules and plan activities with family and friends better, Maj. Stephanie Burch said.

The issue was raised during a comprehensive analysis of the department’s operations after Chief Thomas Bennett took over last year, Burch said.

Email newsletter signup

“We did a survey of patrol staff,” Burch said. “We had a fairly substantial majority that preferred the fixed shifts.”

Nearly 70 percent of patrol officers indicated they preferred being on fixed rather than rotating shifts, Burch added.

In a letter alerting City Council members to the change, City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn said many officers felt permanent shifts would be more family-friendly. The method of rotating shifts is out of date and used by very few departments, she added.

“Very few police departments continue to rotate shifts with such frequency as our police department,” she said. “This method is a 1970-1980 model.”

Cuffee-Glenn also noted the change had been discussed prior to Bennett’s arrival, but the previous police administration was hesitant to make the switch.

Officers will be able to request their preferred shift, and preference will be given based on seniority, Burch said.

The department also is changing to what is known as 5-2/5-3 rotation, which means each officer will work five days and then be off two days, then work five days and then be off three days.

“If you’re on a 5-2/5-3, they rotate,” Burch said. “They’re not always stuck with Tuesday and Wednesday off. You get a Saturday and Sunday once in a while.”

The change also has a number of benefits for public safety, Burch said. The department now will be able to assign more officers to the busiest parts of the day rather than putting an equal number on each shift.

The switch also will allow officers to become more accustomed to the types of activity that occur in their assigned districts during their shift.

“Obviously, certain activities go on at certain times of the day,” Burch said. “If you have a restaurant bar crowd that kicks up on an evening shift, that changes the way you do business. You have a better sense of when those things are occurring because of seeing it more consistently.”