What does a Police Officer’s Schedule look like?

Many people have no idea what a typical schedule looks like for a police officer. Some people may know some of the logistics of a police officer’s schedule, but most law enforcement departments create schedules that are unique to their agency and configured to their needs. Within departments, police officers’ schedules are dependent on seniority, shift responsibility and extra duty assignments. Since law enforcement is a 24/7 job, there are various shifts to cover at all hours and administrative teams have to create schedules that give around-the-clock coverage. This is all to say, not all police officer’s schedules look the same. 

Police officer schedule breakdown

Most agencies schedule their officers into a 40-hour work week. Almost every police officer will work a schedule that includes nights, weekends and holidays at some point during their career. Though scheduled for 40 hours, most police officers accrue overtime hours during their typical work week and hit over 40 hours. Because law enforcement officers are the frontline responders to every emergency that happens in the community, their working hours change constantly and can vary greatly. 

Police officer schedules are typically broken down into shift variations. Every shift variation is depending on the police department, but they will typically fall into either 12-hour shifts, 10-hour shifts, or 8-hour shifts. 

Shift variations

Law enforcement agencies will create department schedules based on the community they serve and the size of the agency.

The most common shift schedule for police officers is called the Pitman Schedule. The Pitman Schedule has officers working 12-hour shifts on a rotating basis. A typical Pitman Schedule consists of a two-week cycle where each squad works two days on, two days off, three days on, two days off, two days on and three days off. The Pitman Schedule is popular amongst police agencies because by rotating through four squads, it provides 24-hour coverage. Many police officers enjoy working the Pitman Schedule because officers don’t work for more than three consecutive days and they have 3-day weekends, every other week. 

Another common shift schedule is the 4/10. With the 4/10, police officers work four, 10-hour shifts and rotate between day shifts, evening shifts and midnight shifts. A great perk of this shift schedule is that officers receive approximately 52 extra days off per year. 

Some agencies opt for a more conventional work schedule and have their officers working an 8-hour schedule. Similar to other industries’ shift work, this schedule has officers working 8-hour shifts, 5 days per week, with 2 days off. 

Though these are three of the most common shift schedules for police officers, many law enforcement agencies tweak these schedules to configure them to their department’s needs. 


One of the most common questions asked in regards to a police officer’s schedule is: do police officers get holidays off?

Law enforcement is a 24/7 job and many police officers will find themselves working holidays at least one point in their careers. Though some may perceive this as a negative part of the job, you do receive holiday pay. So for those who don’t celebrate holidays or who don’t have a large social life, receiving overtime pay or time-and-a-half could be a big perk.

What do police officers do while on shift?

Day-to-day responsibilities vary greatly for police officers. Their daily responsibilities vary based on seniority, training certifications and specific roles. 

Common shift responsibilities can include:

  • Contacting dispatch
  • Writing reports for traffic violations or infractions
  • Writing reports for accidents, arrests, or other occurrences
  • Responding to 911 calls
  • Patrolling assigned areas
  • Being a visible presence in the community they serve
  • Taking witness statements
  • Filing reports

No two days are the same in law enforcement. A police officer’s schedule changes depending on community needs and real-time emergencies. 

Do police officers have a normal sleep schedule?

A police officer’s sleep schedule varies depending on their shift schedule. For the most part, most police officers will experience working both day and night shifts.

Like any industry that requires night shifts, working night shifts can impact your sleep schedule because it works against your circadian rhythm. For officers with partners or children, working opposite hours from those around you may be difficult. 

Some day shifts can be just as challenging if your start time is 4 AM or 5 AM. Ultimately, a police officer’s sleep schedule depends on which shift schedule they work and the consistency of that schedule.

Does a police officer’s schedule impact their social life?

The impact of a police officer’s schedule on their social life is subjective to every individual officer. However, keeping up with family and friends may be difficult if you work varying shifts with long hours. Working 12-hour shifts can be exhausting, especially if your shift is an evening or midnight shift. 

It’s important for police officers to communicate their social struggles to their partners, friends, or loved ones. Being open about your demanding schedule will help those closest to you understand what you’re going through. 

Do police officers get time off?

This is another commonly asked question! The answer is yes, police officers do get time off, but their time off varies depending on a few reasons.

For starters, requesting time off as a junior officer may be difficult. The approval process for leave requests is usually based on seniority, so those who are junior officers may have a more difficult time requesting specific days off. For many agencies, time off is accrued based on tenure, so the longer you work at the agency, the more leave you will have.

It’s important to remember that with more years under your belt, you are more likely to work the shift you want and the schedule that best suits your life. 

The bottom line

Though your schedule may be tough at points, working as a police officer is a rewarding career. 

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