Counting Calls vs. Counting Time

The most valuable resource that patrol officers possess is time, so how should it be measured?

Many decisions about staffing, allocation, and scheduling are made primarily on the CFS (Calls for Service) counts, and if time spent is included it is usually a generalized number across all CFS events. You’ve likely read something like “the average CFS took 18:41 to complete”. This is a very broad brush to apply when looking at resource consumption, and won’t provide the data needed to match your resource to your demand.

The most valuable resource that patrol officers possess is time. Time to respond and handle calls when citizens need help. Time to proactively engage their community. Time to write reports and take care of the day-to-day business. Time to collect information and investigate. Time to attend training and gain the most recent skills and knowledge available. So, when it comes to measuring this most valuable resource, how should it be done?

Average number of hours spent per officer per year

Adding up the time spent on CFS may seem straightforward, but the actual resource consumption is more complicated. It is not just looking at the time elapsed from the time of arrival to the time the call is clear. What if multiple officers respond? What if officers return to the call later? Each CFS is not equal and should not be treated as such.

Take for example a shoplifting call at your local big box store. One officer can typically handle a shoplifting call in about 30 minutes. Now, let’s look at a disturbance call outside a bar in a crowded entertainment center of town. One officer is not sufficient for this call, rather four officers are needed and it will take much longer than 30 minutes, probably one hour or more, to handle. So, while each call gets one tally in the count column, the time spent is vastly different; 30 minutes compared to four hours (4 officers @ 1 hour each = 4 hours). Time should not be seen as linear, rather it should be viewed as stacked.

Correct measurement of consumed time on calls per unit.

What if officers make multiple trips to the same call? For example, they clear the call but need to speak with the parties again later. Each instance of work on the call needs to be calculated so the true demand can be captured. Measuring from the first on-scene to the last clear would greatly inflate the time spent on the call. In the sample below, the actual time spent on the call was less than 2 hours, yet the first arrival to the last clear adds up to over 5 hours and would be an inaccurate measurement of resource demand.

Click here to see how the Deploy PlusTM platform from Corona Solutions rigorously measures demand so the appropriate resources can be scheduled for each hour of each day.

Impacts of Attrition and Juggling the Work Left Behind

In recent years law enforcement is being asked to “do more with less,” and at the same time, more and more societal ills are falling to the police for solving. But, bandwidth is shrinking and the workload is expanding, stretching resources so thin that the slightest extra tension could collapse the entire system.

At the same time, policing is experiencing a mass exodus of seasoned officers, and few recruits are ready to step in to take their place. The institutional knowledge walking out the door is going to take years to rebuild. Recruiting woes were the topic of discussion amongst law enforcement leaders long before the current staffing crisis, and things just got worse.

The Deploy Plus™ platform from Corona Solutions is the right tool to balance the workload and buy back officer time. The Deploy™ web application helps find the best allocation and schedule to prevent burnout amongst officers and empowers quick adaptation as workload and personnel change.

Redistributed, more equitable and balanced workload

There are no simple or short resolutions to recruiting and training when it takes 18 – 24 months to put an officer in a car answering calls on their own. Even if agencies are fortunate enough to over-hire in anticipation of attrition rates, the line of recruits waiting to get in is far shorter than it used to be. And, while hiring practices and standards are being evaluated, adjusted, modified, and revised to get more diverse bodies in the door, the work left to do has not subsided.

High saturation levels per officer

Continuing to use overtime to fill shifts is not sustainable. Officers will burn out from constantly running call-to-call, no backup units will be there when needed, and the overtime budget will explode.

When you can’t add cops, the only way to buy back officer time is to maximize the efficiency of your deployment of officers. An evidence-based approach can redistribute the workload across the remaining staff which will be more equitable, safer, and economical.

Click here to learn how Deploy Plus can help.

There’s No Time to Waste

Reduced staffing, budget cuts, personnel shortages… these are all terms floating around police command staff meetings these days. The writing on the wall indicates that there will be no new funding allocated toward police in the near future. Any federal money poured into Community Policing won’t materialize for a few years. Next year’s budgets are being negotiated and set, which include hiring freezes and even sworn layoffs. Police have always dealt with the “do more with less” mantra, but that is more real now than ever.

So, how can police departments maximize efficiency with minimal cost? Some of those answers lie in technology. There have been great technological advances that have helped departments run leaner and more efficient, such as online reporting and virtual police response. When there is no evidence to collect, no witnesses to canvas and interview, and no threat to mitigate, these pieces of technology allow officers more time for the calls that require an on-scene presence.

Many police agencies have already deployed these technological advances and still find the amount of time needed to maintain service has exceeded their capacity. Random or disproportional staffing is not going to cut it. Police need to squeeze every ounce of efficiency from their patrol operations so they don’t have to sacrifice their level of service or the community’s expectations.

To accomplish this, agencies need to be agile in their ability to staff and deploy patrol operations. What worked last year no longer works, and COVID shutdowns put a wrinkle in determining how busy the streets are these days. The solution requires continually monitoring changes in workload, looking for seepage in workload, and finding a way to buy back officers’ time.

Enormous gains can be made by employing proportional staffing methods, which result in the appropriate number of staff scheduled each hour of each day proportionate to the workload for that hour and day.

When they’re unable to gain officers, time is the only commodity left that agencies can hope to gain. Now more than ever, police agencies know there is no time to waste.

Proportional staffing, smart schedules, and buying back officer time is possible with the technological and analytical advances employed by Corona Solutions. Contact us to help squeeze the most time from your patrol schedule.