Albemarle County Police Go to a Ten-Hour Shift Schedule
Albemarle County police officers will start working 10-hour shifts in November, a scheduling change that means that departing and arriving officers will overlap their work times by two hours at each change of shift.
The new scheduling, desired by many officers, means that extra staff will be available at times when calls for police service typically are highest, according to Lt. Greg Jenkins, who oversees the department’s Blue Ridge District, which encompasses western and southern Albemarle.
The Blue Ridge District has two officers on duty in it under current scheduling and under the new plan four officers will be present during the overlap. Jenkins said that when officers answer calls they can be tied up as long as four hours and not be available elsewhere. Thus unanswered calls can get “stacked,” Jenkins said, and the shift coming on is already in a situation of trying to catch up. It’s hoped the overlap time will mean that calls coming during peak times, notably late afternoon, will be more promptly attended to and not become a drag on officers who must also answer calls coming in the evening.
The overlap is also expected to help communication among officers about what is going on in a district.
The step is a stage on the way to what Jenkins called a platoon-based system, where the same officers work the same shift under the same supervisors on a predictable schedule. The platoon system is phase two of the county’s geo-policing initiative, which is intended to keep officers in sectors they learn very well and to promote personal acquaintance among officers and citizens.
“The benefit of the platoon system is that you have the same officers and supervisors every single day,” said Lt. Pete Mainzer, who supervises the Jefferson District, which comprises the northeastern third of the county. The districts cover equal shares of the county population. “Now we have different mixes of officers and supervisors going out every day.”
“We can do this schedule with our current manpower,” said Jenkins. To be able to staff a genuine platoon system, the department would have to add about 6 officers per shift, or 18 policemen total, he said. According to the plan, once a platoon system exists, police operations would be decentralized to local stations, such as is proposed for Crozet depot.
“Our goal is a five minute response time to priority one calls,” said Jenkins. “Those are calls where you are answering with your lights and siren going. Eighty-five percent of the time those are where a weapon is involved or there’s an accident where someone is seriously injured.” Calls in the western sector now average about 15-minute response times, but times vary according to circumstances.
In the new schedule, daylight shift will work from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., evening shift will work from 2:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. and midnight shift will work from 10:30 p.m. to 8:30 a.m. Supervisors start their shifts 30 minutes earlier than the officers come on.
Officers will work that schedule with five days on, followed by four days off, then again five days on and four days off, and then six days on and four days off. That works out to 160 hours in a 28-day pay cycle, Jenkins noted.
Officers are working 18 days per pay period now and under the new schedule will work 16 days per cycle.
“This mainly affects patrol shift officers and they want this,” said Mainzer. “We looked at three years of data on peak times for calls for service and from that we worked up workable schedules. A transition team has been meeting on the change over for 18 months,” he said.
“Three p.m. to 5 p.m. is the top time for calls. Calls pick up at 7 a.m. and gradually increase through the morning and then level off at lunch time. It starts increasing at 2:30 and peaks at 5 p.m. It tapers off after 5 and then levels off until 10 or 10:30. Then the calls go up again,” Mainzer explained. “The challenge for us is that the busy times are at shift change.” The police department usually fields about 45,000 calls a year. About 55 percent are in the Jefferson District, 45 percent in the Blue Ridge District. Jefferson usually has a couple hundred more calls per month.
“Since I’ve been here—I came in 1986—the schedule has never been messed with,” said Mainzer. “This is a big shift for our organization, but the majority of officers want it.” He said that Sellers had heard about this often in his interviews with staff members.
The department is hiring a second data analyst, this one to follow data collected from the operations [patrol] division. The department’s current analyst is dedicated to analysis for the investigative division. Analysts sift through the information collected by the department to find patterns relevant to crime prevention, clues to crimes, and other information that can enhance police effectiveness.
Mainzer credited U.S. Army Major Sam Huddleston, an Iraq war veteran who was studying for a Ph.D. at U.Va., with showing what a workload analysis of section data could suggest, such as that another sector in Blue Ridge District is probably necessary. It would probably be for the Crozet growth area.
“The small town atmosphere in Crozet appeals to our officers,” said Jenkins. “They get a sense of accountability and ownership working there. The community wants us there and we want to be there. We’re trying to provide the best service we can for our community.”