Port Angeles police trim costs for overtime thanks to shift changes
By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
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The savings this year are in addition to an estimated $58,800 reduction in overtime costs from 2013 to 2014, Terry Gallagher said during a Tuesday evening City Council work session on the proposed 2014 budget.
The department budgeted $252,900 in overtime costs in 2013. Gallagher has estimated $194,100, or 23.3 percent, less for 2014.
Overall, Gallagher said, the Police Department’s 2014 proposed budget is $181,000, or 3.5 percent, less than the department’s 2013 expenditures.
That’s the second-highest decrease in city department reductions from 2013 to 2014, according to city budget figures, with the legal department coming in at a 4.8 percent reduction.
“What we’re hearing is staff are really creatively working our budget,” Mayor Cherie Kidd said at the Tuesday work session.
“This is turning a tough task into a little bit easier one this year.”
Police overtime costs, due in large part to training and time spent writing arrest reports, had increased from $287,565 in 2004 to $341,546 in 2007, an 18.8 percent increase, according to city figures.
Costs were lowered to $242,251 in 2008, a 29 percent reduction due mostly to shifting required training hours to officers’ on-duty time, Gallagher said.
“That created some challenges for us, but we had some success that year,” Gallagher said.
Overtime costs hovered between $220,000 and $260,000 from 2008 to 2012, he said, leading police administration to look for larger changes that could reduce overtime.
“If we were going to realize more significant savings, we’re going to have to make significant changes in the way we do business,” Gallagher said.
Shift in shifts
That change came in the form of a “4/11” shift schedule, in which officers work four 11-hour days per week, followed by four days off, Deputy Police Chief Brian Smith said.
Also adjusted were the numbers of the city’s 22 patrol officers on duty for specific shifts. The change put more officers on duty during the busiest times of the day, typically between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., Smith said.
“We’ve been able to squeeze the balloon, if you will, and [shift] the coverage more to when it’s busier,” he said.
Research done by the committee of officers who developed the shift changes found that longer workdays with more days off in a row leads to better physical and mental well-being for officers, Smith said.
“This improves the quality of life of the officer, which improves their job performance,” Smith said.
Smith said he has heard some complaints from officers about the new shifts, mainly focused on the 11-hour days, but said responses have generally been good.
“The feedback from the officers is very positive,” he said.
Smith said the biggest change so far is officers having more hours set aside for paperwork and non-patrol duties.
These hours allows officers to complete required training during regular working hours, as opposed to logging overtime for training, he explained.
“The efficiency of our training and focus [on] that time has really improved,” he said.
Gallagher said the success of the shift changes is due in large part to the patrol officers who are making the new program work.
“They’re doing the right thing for the community and the department, and I think they should be recognized for that,” he said.
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last modified: October 24. 2013 5:57PM