Under the new leadership of Chief Mike Broadhead, the Statesboro Police Department is restructuring its Patrol Bureau, changing the time on a shift from 12 hours to 10 and making training part of regular working hours for all officers.
After the new schedule takes effect July 1, each Tuesday will be a training day in the department. That way, all officers can get 10 hours training each month while on the clock, and the Emergency Response Team, required to train 16 hours a month under national SWAT team standards, will get 20 hours, he told City Council on Tuesday.
“I’m convinced that ongoing and relevant training is critical to the way we do business, and right now we’re doing training as something extra,” Broadhead said. “We pay extra for it, we schedule it on people’s days off and allow them to schedule themselves to come in for those training dates, and I really want to make training a piece of the regular monthly schedule.”
He presented the new schedule as an effort to improve employee wellness and efficiency in terms of “the way that we’re spending our money” as well as to augment training.
Currently SPD patrol officers work 12-hour shifts, 6 a.m.-6 p.m. or 6 p.m.-6 a.m., with no overlap. This allows little opportunity for shared training or interaction during regular hours, Broadhead observed. It also means that when an officer is out sick or for other reasons, someone who has just worked a long shift the previous day may be called in for another 12 hours.
Officers need rest
“As far as the wellness piece of it, I can just tell you from coming in from the outside, our folks are pretty tired, and a lot of that, I think, has to do with scheduling,” Broadhead said.
Previously police chief in Riverton, Wyoming, he started as chief of Statesboro’s police force in mid-April.
Allowing officers to spend more time with their families and to not be constantly rotating through shifts should make them healthier and “lead to higher levels of service,” he told City Council. The schedule does not require council approval, but Broadhead said he thought the council and public should know.
“We think that officers that are healthy and well rested are going to make better decisions, and ultimately we’re going to get a better officer out there on the street,” he said.
The efficiency, he suggested, should come from a reduction of overtime and better distribution of forces.
Varied call volumes
Currently, the Police Department is fully staffed between 2 a.m. and 7 a.m., when it experiences only 8 percent of its call volume, Broadhead reported. Half of all calls are received between 4 p.m. and 2 a.m.
In the new schedule, the 10-hour shifts overlap, and slightly different numbers of officers will be assigned to each shift. The overlap will place the most officers on duty when call volume is highest.
The Patrol Bureau will still comprise two watches, each commanded by a lieutenant. But instead of two shifts, each watch will have three shifts, each supervised by a sergeant and a corporal. Beginning July 1, the first shift in a watch will be on duty 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., the middle shift 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. and the last shift, 9 p.m. to 7 a.m.
“Generally speaking, that overlapping shift gives us the flexibility to, if somebody calls in sick, we’re not pulling somebody in on their day off,” Broadhead said.
Meanwhile, the two watches will trade on-duty days from week to week. The first week, the ‘A’ Watch will be on duty Sunday and off Monday, then both watches will report on Tuesday, ‘A’ Watch Wednesday and Thursday, then ‘B’ Watch on Friday and Saturday.
Both watches will report to work each Tuesday. But while officers from one watch are in training, those from the other watch will work the streets.
Detectives will also be included in Tuesday training sessions, and Emergency Response Team members will get their additional training on the third and fourth Tuesdays of each month, he said.
A full-time training sergeant, to be appointed, will coordinate the training schedule, securing certified programs whenever possible.
“So really it’s about making sure that those days are well scheduled,” Broadhead said after the meeting. “We might go to the range and shoot for a while, we might have some CPR updates, Taser updates, and so that needs to be scheduled a couple of months out. … Some things need to be updated every year.”
With Deputy Chief Robert Bryan now heading the administrative division, the vacant position of a captain over that division will be eliminated, Broadhead said. He plans to use the money saved to provide the full-time training sergeant and also to make a non-officer public affairs specialist, who has been part-time, full-time as of July 1.
Budgeted for 74 sworn officers, the department has long had a problem with turnover, never filling all the vacancies at one time. But the situation is improving, with the officer count now in “the mid-to-high 60s” and others in training, Broadhead said.
“So the numbers are going to come around,” he said. “What we have to do is stop the attrition rate, and I think that this schedule is going to help that a lot. The training day, I think that officers are going to love it … and then having a schedule that’s not beating them down.”
But the new schedule will be tried for six months and subject to change with feedback from the officers, he said. In fact, the plan he presented was not his first suggestion, which would have placed officers in the same four 10-hour shifts each week.
But few wanted to be assigned permanently to Thursday through Saturday nights, a beat Broadhead called Statesboro’s “party patrol.” So other officers suggested the rotating watch assignments.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.