An Argument for the 5/8 Schedule in Policing


The shift schedule that law enforcement agencies choose impacts not only the performance and well-being of police officers but also the agency. With a variety of shift schedules to choose from, it may be helpful to examine a case study of how one agency benefited from transitioning to a new schedule.

One such study was done by the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) and the ways they improved by switching to a 5/8 (five, eight-hour shifts per week) schedule. They conclude that the 5/8 schedule, compared to a 4/10 (four, 10-hour shifts per week) schedule, provides more police coverage, improve employee productivity, and results in a decrease in overtime.


Police Coverage

The SFPD state that a 5/8 schedule improves police coverage under certain types of leaves. For non-consecutive absences of less than four consecutive days or training and assignment to another unit, SFPD concludes that there is a decrease of hours lost due to only losing eight hours rather than 10 on a 4/10 schedule. To express this in financial terms, SFPD identified each absence in their database as either an absence of four or more consecutive days, an absence of less than four consecutive days, or as training or assignment to another unit. They then calculated the hours and number of shifts that would be worked under a 5/8 system on a yearly basis.

SFPD found that under a 5/8 system:

  • Police would have worked an additional 52,866 hours per year
  • Sergeants would have worked an additional 9,801 hours per year
  • Lieutenants would have worked an additional 3,067 hours per year

Based on these calculations, SFPD would need to hire 32 police officers, six sergeants, and two lieutenants under a 4/10 system, at an estimated cost of $2,414,670 per year to equal the same number of hours worked under a 5/8 system.

Employee Productivity

Under the 5/8 system, SFPD concludes from their historical data that the average number of police officers per shift would increase by 25% which results in an average of 30.9 officers per shift. This equates to an approximate $1,770,663 per year.

As well, officers may feel less fatigued and more productive working two hours less a day despite the addition of an extra day a week.

Decrease in Overtime

SFPD states that agencies experience a decrease in overtime in two areas under the 5/8 schedule: special event overtime and court overtime.

For special event overtime, this decrease results from the reduction in watch-off days under the 5/8 schedule. Specifically, officers will have 104 scheduled watch-off days (two per week x 52 weeks per year) compared to 156 (three days off per week x 52 weeks per year) on a 4/10 schedule. As officers have one additional workday in their work week, it is less likely that they will require special event overtime, resulting in lower agency costs. In the case of court overtime, the decrease results from officers on day watch who must attend court appearances. Since off-duty court appearances are only assigned on officers’ watch-off days, this would result in a decrease in court overtime.

How InTime Can Help Your Agency Transition to a New Schedule

Is your agency looking to transition to a new shift schedule but unsure if it will be a positive change for your agency and employees? With InTime’s template feature, you can test multiple shift schedules simultaneously without changing your current schedule. This feature allows you to benchmark certain factors such as coverage levels and overtime hours to prevent officer fatigue and determine if union and agency rules are being met. By doing so, you can easily find the best pattern for your agency. As well, with InTime holding decades of industry experience, we assure you that we can help your agency meet your staffing goals while streamlining your complex processes to improve efficiency and accountability.

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