Officers Coming out of FTO – GREAT! Now, Where Should They Go?

Agencies can boost their efficiency and provide higher quality service to their community by strategically plugging in newly-minted cops.

There’s a staffing crisis in policing. No one is disputing that. Agencies are competing for the few and far between that decide law enforcement is a career choice for them. Some agencies are making great strides in that direction as more recruits make it through the background process and academy classes grow. Once those newly minted cops are ready to hit the street, the choice has to be made as to which shift needs them the most.

Which shift gets the coveted resources has historically been decided, and is still common practice, by command staff sitting around a table and making their pitch to put the new cops in their district or on their shift. I’ve heard from many agencies that continue to allocate patrol staff this way. Staffing decisions based on who makes the best pitch will only reward the best salesman in the room. It’s unlikely this method will alleviate the days and hours with the heaviest workload. If there were an unbiased way to allocate staff based on defensible needs, would you use it? I hope everyone reading this post answers a resounding “yes” to that question.

Whether you refer to it as data-driven or evidence-based policing, those terms have become synonymous: there is a lot of information at law enforcement’s disposal to help make smart decisions. The obstacle for many agencies may be the capability to harness that data at the level of specificity to provide a defensible and actionable solution that addresses staffing down to the day and hour.

Agencies can be ready to boost their efficiency and provide higher quality service to their community by strategically plugging those newly-minted cops into the exact right place. The number of officers scheduled to work can be balanced to match the varying demand within different areas.

Here’s what that could look like in practice. This agency has 48 officers assigned to 12 teams on this schedule.

This agency is trying to address issues related to Priority 2 call response times. This is the majority of their call load, the best and most frequent opportunity they get with their community to deliver quality service. With their current allocation of 48 officers, they are experiencing longer response times between 06:00 – 12:00 on most days of the week. The community is seeing a poor reflection of police response during the hours in which they feel they’re needed most.

There are 4 cops coming out of FTO that will need to be placed into the schedule. A common practice is to distribute the cops so that the team sizes will be equal. This would alleviate officers feeling slighted because their teams have fewer officers on the days they work than the same teams working on different days. Watch commanders could make the argument that their teams should get the new cops because, on the schedule, they appear to be understaffed. The below example places officers to equalize A teams and B teams.

Based on the above allocation of the 4 new officers, this is how the projected response time will be affected. There’s some relief to the response times throughout the week. However, from 06:00 – 07:00, the response time is still anticipated to be quite lengthy. There are still multiple hours with anticipated response times over 10 minutes.

Adding 4 officers, going from 48 to 52, may not seem like it would make much of a difference to response times. Yet, even small incremental additions can be impactful. It requires examining the data in such detail that it will reveal precise weak spots throughout the week. It also requires evaluating the available resources at those exact same intervals. Is it possible to allocate those 4 officers to surgically address those weak spots? YES!

Using Deploy, this agency tried every possible combination of where the four officers could be added and found the best way to positively impact Priority 2 response time was to add one officer each to the A Days teams and two officers to the B Days 07:00 team.

This allocation of the 4 officers made significant improvements to many more hours throughout the week. The original troublesome hours, 06:00 – 12:00, were reduced to an anticipated response time of less than 10 minutes, with the exception of Tuesday between 06:00 – 07:00, which is just slightly above 10 minutes.

These improvements were made by only adding 4 officers. Imagine adding many more officers multiple times throughout the year. The positive impacts can be significant! The key to maximizing those impacts is to utilize the CAD data available in such a detailed way that it will expose specific pain points and then apply your resources precisely when and where they do the most good.

To see how this could work for your agency or to learn more about how Corona Solutions maximizes patrol efficiency, click here.

How Crucial is the Schedule to Staffing?

A patrol schedule that does not consider the demand for service when allocating officers will leak efficiency.

In the face of high attrition and low recruitment plaguing the law enforcement sector, the conversation frequently revolves around increasing hiring bonuses and bettering pay rates to attract and retain staff. But perhaps, there’s a pivotal solution that we’re missing – could an improved scheduling process better allocate existing resources, easing the workload for officers? In this blog post, we dive into the possibility of refining the current schedule as a tool to mitigate staffing challenges. We’ll consider how efficient resource use can become a game-changer in times of dwindling numbers and growing demands, and why we need to prioritize this often overlooked aspect of law enforcement administration.

Even if agencies could hire a plethora of cops today, those officers won’t be ready to work for many months to come. The training process is lengthy and, by the time those officers are ready, several more will have left the organization. Getting ahead of that cycle is next to impossible. In the meantime, the calls keep coming, and the demand is still heavy. No one wants overworked and burned-out officers responding to critical situations and, the more they burn out, the greater the chance they’ll quit. Longer hours and more overtime are dangerous and most certainly not sustainable. Efficient use of resources is more important now than ever.

There is efficiency hiding inside patrol schedules that few agencies are tapping into. To better understand this, let’s look through a lens we can all relate to.

There is a finite number of officers to deploy within an agency just as there is a finite amount of money we have within our budget. Each month we allocate proportional amounts of money to maintain a balanced life. We pay a mortgage or rent so that we have a place to live. We pay utilities so that we have electricity and heat. We allocate our available funds responsibly and efficiently.

If we didn’t allocate those funds responsibly, efficiently and proportionally, there would be consequences. If we paid the same amount of money to the mortgage company as we do to utilities, then we would lose our housing due to underpayment. Conversely, it would be wasteful to pay the utility company the same as we pay our mortgage company. The same applies to not allocating our patrol resources responsibly, efficiently and proportionally.

We are seeing those consequences play out with overworked and burned-out cops. If some officers are running from call to call while others are not feeling that pinch, then there’s inefficiency hiding in the schedule. The most efficient schedule allocates the number of officers proportional to the demand. Just like you allocate the appropriate amount of money proportional to the amount of the debt or bill, the same applies to patrol scheduling.

A patrol schedule that does not consider the demand for service when allocating officers will leak efficiency. This leakage can occur by the hour of the day or by the day of the week. For example, if you had 80 officers and 4 teams and wanted to equalize the span of control across all the teams, you could put 20 officers on each team. This seems fair and balanced. In addition, this schedule could rotate so that officers only worked every other weekend. The example below, which is very similar to a schedule configuration recently recommended in a staffing study for a large metropolitan agency by a different consulting company, assumes two 12-hour shifts per day, so there is no overlap between day shift and night shift.

This allocation treats every day the same and every hour the same. It assumes that the demand for service is the same every day and every hour. There is the same number of officers working Sunday evening between 17:00 – 19:00 as there are working Thursday evening between 17:00 – 19:00. While both periods are understaffed, according to the demand during those hours on those days, Thursday is severely understaffed.

Using a tool like Deploy, we can analyze exactly how suitable this schedule is given the demand recorded in the CAD system.

Sunday at 17:00 is understaffed by 8, and 18:00 is understaffed by 10
Thursday at 17:00 is understaffed by 15, and 18:00 is understaffed by 14

Officers working Sunday evening at 17:00 may feel a little busy, but the officers working Thursday at 17:00 will feel crushed by the demand. The short staffing is almost double Thursday than it is on Sunday.

But what if you could make the workload easier for all of the officers, no matter what day or hour they’re working? Let’s take the same number of officers, 80, and create a schedule that allocates the officers proportionately to the workload. We added some teams and adjusted the days they work and the hours they work. Not only did we alleviate the crushing understaffing hours, but we also incorporated training into the schedule, and each officer actually works fewer hours on the street than the previous schedule.

Sunday at 17:00 and 18:00 are now understaffed by only 2
Thursday at 17:00 and 18:00 are now only understaffed by 4

In conclusion, the significance of an efficient patrol schedule in dealing with staffing issues cannot be overstated. Demand-driven deployment paves the way for balanced workloads, even in scenarios of high attrition and short-staffing. By harnessing the power of smart scheduling, we can alleviate the pressures on our law enforcement officers, making their jobs manageable and reducing the burnout rate. This strategy goes beyond merely filling vacancies; it’s about making the most of the resources at hand to ensure the safety and well-being of our officers and the communities they serve.

For more insights into our innovative solutions addressing staffing concerns, follow this link. Let’s rethink scheduling as we know it and embrace a future of more efficient law enforcement operations.

2022 – Adjusting and Recalibrating

The ability to adjust and recalibrate is crucial for an agency to run its patrol division smartly and efficiently

As 2022 wrapped up, a reflection on the state of police staffing gradually started to appear. Gathering insight on staffing woes from across the country at different conferences and symposiums illustrated that, while each agency is unique, there are some basic problems they all face.

Three years ago, the world plunged into COVID uncertainty, and policing had to adjust. Next came the reckoning after the George Floyd incident, and policing had to adjust. Officers became disenchanted with the profession and left in droves, and policing is again having to adjust.

As we start 2023, law enforcement is dealing with high attrition and low recruitment. Anyone who has worked in law enforcement for more than a minute knows this will not be a quick or easy fix. Support for law enforcement is climbing back up. A lot of resources are now being devoted to officer wellness and safety, trying to address the underlying problems that led to high attrition and low recruitment. Isn’t that what those POP problem-solving classes taught us all those years? Address the underlying problem or condition; don’t just treat the symptoms. Law enforcement is entering an updated enlightenment phase. However, just like a cruise ship doesn’t turn on a dime, it will take a while for this transformation to occur. In the meantime, agencies need the ability to adjust and recalibrate in order to meet the demands of their community whilst hanging on to the staff they have.

As this metamorphosis occurs, there’s still the business of policing that needs to be done every day. During 2022, in an effort to try and adequately staff patrol, agencies reported disbanding specialized units, pulling detectives back to patrol, enacting 12-hour shifts (which may not be a good solution – see our previous blog post), and that excessive overtime is creating overworked and weary cops.

In 2022, law enforcement leaders, analysts, planners and researchers came to conferences and symposiums looking for insight and tools, such as Deploy Plus from Corona Solutions, to help them adjust and recalibrate when it comes to dynamic staffing challenges like high attrition, reduced budgets, and union demands.

Those insights included moving from thinking in shift averages to hourly averages for a more defensible, targeted approach to relieve specific pain points throughout the week in “Use Time Analysis to Recalibrate Patrol Staffing” at the:

  • AACA Spring Symposium (Arizona Association of Crime Analysts)
  • New England Crime Analysis & Intelligence Conference hosted by MACA (Massachusetts Association of Crime Analysts)
  • FCIAA Annual Conference (Florida Crime and Intelligence Analyst Association)
  • National Sheriff’s Association Annual Conference
National Sheriff’s Association 2022 Annual Conference – Kansas City

Insights also included which metrics are important to use and the best way to measure them for effective patrol staffing during “Ease the Pain of Attrition Through Patrol Staff Recalibration” at the NYS Division of Criminal Justice Public Safety Symposium in Albany, NY.

NYS Division of Criminal Justice 2022 Public Safety Symposium – Albany

While staffing woes continue to increase, it was saddening to see the collapse of the IALEP (International Association of Law Enforcement Planners) in 2022. These are the professionals tasked with staffing analysis if agencies are fortunate enough to employ them. With dwindling support and membership, the IALEP felt there wasn’t enough interest to continue. So, what is the future of staffing analysis for law enforcement agencies? There’s certainly a need for it based on the interest of the conference and symposium attendees. In April, the presentation “Ease the Pain of Attrition Through Patrol Staff Recalibration” will be given at the 2023 NORCAN Training Conference (Northwest Regional Crime Analysis Network).

Thorough patrol staffing analysis takes a lot of time and isn’t easy. There are no common off-the-shelf tools to which analysts and planners can turn that answer the hard questions: How can we effectively manage demand for service with decreasing staff? Will changing to a 12-hour schedule make officer workload better or worse? How much will response times be impacted when the next 10 officers leave?

Patrol is the biggest part of an agency’s budget (less a jail). It’s the division that most feels the impact of attrition, and it’s the most scrutinized of any department. Staffing to demand will not be answered by looking at a one-time snapshot in time, as demand is changing too fast, and historical workload was interrupted by COVID. The ability to adjust and recalibrate is crucial for an agency to run its patrol division smartly and efficiently. The way both the communities and the cops deserve.

To learn more information about new tools for demand-driven deployment, click here.