The responsibilities of law enforcement span every minute of every day. These responsibilities make it difficult for police departments to provide 24-hour coverage while balancing the health of their personnel. To ensure policing can be provided around the clock, shift work is necessary, resulting in officers working lengthy hours with varying schedules. Though it can be difficult to avoid scheduling problems, it’s critical for police departments to prevent scheduling issues where they can. Police officers have a tough enough job as is, and scheduling issues such as lack of coverage, shift shortages and human fatigue only make their jobs harder.
In order for your police department to run your organization smoothly and effectively, proactively managing your policing schedules should be a top priority. Here are the six most common police scheduling problems and their solutions.
1. Lack of Coverage
Lack of coverage is common within all police departments due to the 24/7 scheduling needs. It can be difficult to ensure there’s coverage at every hour of the day and night. Unfortunately, many departments don’t realize their lack of coverage before it’s too late and are often left scrambling for coverage.
Set shift rotations determine whether or not there will be a few hours in the 24-hour day without coverage. Lack of shift coverage can be harmful to the community, as there should always be one squad readily available to answer emergencies.
Determining the best shift schedule for your department is a great way to reduce the lack of coverage. Many departments opt for a 12-hour shift rotation, such as the Pitman schedule, because it ensures 24/7 coverage.
2. Shift Shortage
Similar to lack of coverage, shift shortages are common in every public safety industry. Many departments cover shift shortages by having officers work additional shifts and accumulating overtime hours. Though shift shortages are common within police departments across the nation, long-term shortages can cause officer fatigue, which can be harmful to the officer, the police department and to the community.
Chronically working in a fatigued state can have long-term implications on a police officer’s health. It can also severely affect their personal life by causing stress within their families. According to a Cornell University study, regardless of the industry, working more than 50 hours in one week can dramatically increase family conflicts.
Shift shortages are difficult to solve, and sometimes you have no choice but to schedule overtime hours. This is fine to do once in a while, but it’s important to remember this should be the last case solution.
You can mitigate officer fatigue and police scheduling problems by using automated scheduling software that creates your schedules months in advance. Scheduling software will automatically create an option B, C, and D, should there be any conflicts in the schedule leading up to that week’s scheduled shifts
3. Poor Communication
Poor scheduling communication can create large issues within your organization. Communication is key when it comes to scheduling, and everyone in the department should have access to their schedules whenever they need them. Everyone should know who is scheduled for patrol, extra-duty assignments, court days and more. Sergeants and officers should never be out of the loop and wondering what the rest of the department is up to.
Accessible scheduling software will allow every member of your squad to be up-to-date with scheduling changes and updates. With scheduling software, sergeants can simply look at the schedule on a web browser or smartphone to determine if there’s enough coverage for that day, week, or month.
4. Human Fatigue
This is the most common and problematic scheduling problem within all public safety industries. The 24/7 scheduling needs of law enforcement and public safety often result in officers working long shifts with varying hours. Being rested and clear-headed is critical in policing, as it’s harmful to both the officers and the community if law enforcement is overworked and overtired.
Investing in scheduling software that sends smart alerts when officers reach their scheduling thresholds is key to preventing officer fatigue. InTime sends smart alerts to warn when an officer has reached too many hours that week. It’s important for your department to invest in resources so you can continue to make your officers’ health a top priority.
5. Unfair Schedule Equity
Some shifts are definitely better than others. This is the case when it comes down to police shift bidding, a process where employees set their regular schedules and shifts, bid for overtime opportunities or special events and request vacation and paid time off. Unfair schedule equity can be a problem within your department if officers perceive bias. This perceived bias can lead to poor work culture and a lack of camaraderie within your department.
Invest in scheduling software that automatically schedules based on seniority and training qualifications. This way, you can ensure every officer is eligible for shifts based on agency rules and you remove any consequences of perceived favoritism within your department and minimize police scheduling problems.
6. No Scheduling Visibility
Every sergeant should know where their team is at all times. Manual scheduling provides a barrier to scheduling visibility, making it difficult to see what’s happening in your department’s day-to-day activities. Things change on the fly in policing, so it’s important to have full visibility into your department’s activities and updates. Every aspect of your department’s scheduling, whether it’s overtime management, extra-duty assignments, or leave management, should be available within one interface.
The number one solution to lack of scheduling visibility is automated scheduling software. Scheduling software enables your department to know what your employees are doing throughout the day. Scheduling visibility gives a proactive view of potential issues weeks in advance, well before they become problems. Being organized and proactive with your scheduling is key to policing success.
Police Scheduling Problems - The Bottom Line
Though these six police scheduling problems are common in all police departments, they can be proactively prevented. Investing in scheduling software is the number one way to prevent scheduling problems within your department. Reach out to InTime’s product team to learn more about InTime’s scheduling software.