What are the Pros and Cons of the 12 Hour Shift as it Relates to Law Enforcement? How Will the 12 Hour Shift Positively or Negatively Impact The Illinois State Police?
M/Sgt. Brian Anderson #4752
Illinois State Police
Police work is a 24 hour a day 365 days a year endeavor. Scheduling officers to cover that 24 hour daily period is a major topic of interest to each and every department across the country and world. Traditional eight hour shifts of the past have given way to the “compressed work week” schedules of modern day. Where officers once worked eight hours during their tour of duty more and more organizations are opting for the ten or even 12 hour tour of duty to provide law enforcement services to their communities. These extended hours of work have both benefits and drawbacks as you will see throughout this review. There has been much research done in the area of compressed work week schedules but most I’ve found relates to the advantages and disadvantages of the eight hour shift as opposed to the 12 hour shift. A number of districts within the Illinois State Police operate on the ten hour shift which is considered a compressed work week by definition. In this review I hope to offer evidence which will assist administrators in making an educated decision about changes to current shift duration practices. I feel there are benefits to the 8, 10 and 12 hour shift and likewise there are concerns that should be addressed before implementation of any new scheduling device.
Shift work is an inevitable part of the law enforcement community and many other industries worldwide. This 24 hour cycle is staffed many different ways. Some agencies work a traditional 8 hour shift while others opt for a compressed work week utilizing a 10 or even 12 hour work shift. There is a large body of research which evaluates the positive and negative health and psychological effects of the compressed work week on workers. A compressed work week schedule is defined as “Any system of fixed working hours more than eight hours in duration which results in a working week of less than five full days of work in a week” Smith, Folkard, Tucker, McDonald (1998). A number of studies focus on the fatigue aspect and more specifically sleep deprivation and its effect on the worker. For the law enforcement community the question as to which work schedule works best for the agency, officer and the community is raised on an increasing basis throughout the nation. Many departments work a compressed work week schedule while others have elected to staff a traditional 8 hour shift schedule. The fact of the matter is compressed work weeks may work for some organizations while it may flounder in others. The variety of work schedules utilized by law enforcement agencies worldwide is growing at an ever increasing rate. This can be a double edged sword for departments and careful attention should be placed on changing work schedules after utilizing a specific schedule for an extended period of time. A change simply for change sake could prove to be disastrous for the organization. With the amount of research available for inspection and the number options available to agencies an acceptable work schedule is attainable with input from both administration and the officers who will ultimately be working the new schedule. 2
Shift work is a necessary part of any police organization and as such careful consideration should be given to the type of work week officers will be assigned to during their tour of duty. Research suggests sleep loss related fatigue degrades performance, productivity and safety and costs the U.S. economy $136 billion per year in health related losses Vila, B. (2009). It is a well known fact police officers die sooner than many other shift workers. John Violanti Ph.D., a 23 year veteran of the New York State Police and a professor at the University of Buffalo indicates the average...
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