How Do You Really Know How Many Cops You Need?

The key is to know exactly which elements you need, how to scrutinize and clean that data, how to organize it, and most importantly how to apply it.

Law enforcement is now a data-driven profession, forcing agencies to provide statistically-defensible articulation for how many patrol officers are needed to maintain or reach specific goals such as emergency response times or backup unit availability.

This is quickly becoming a hot-button issue, and we are witnessing a collision between politics and demand. If demand dictates more officers, is the area then being over-policed? There is a struggle between officer safety and budgets, and sometimes there simply is no more money to spend. Some officers working the street may feel their safety is being disregarded and they are being taken for granted while others may think everything is great. That’s the byproduct of an imbalanced workload. Then there’s the issue of minimum staffing. An ambiguous number that becomes cemented in the agency culture. We can all agree that there needs to be a certain number of officers on duty, but what is the basis for that number? Is it by shift? Is it by the hour, so the minimum can be met by different shifts?

Even if an agency had all of the officers they’re allocated, there could still be an imbalance in the workload. Officers could struggle to keep up during certain hours while at other hours officers don’t run call-to-call. That’s the byproduct of an inefficient schedule. It’s nearly impossible to consider all of these factors and come up with a patrol schedule and deployment plan that feels perfect for everyone. So, how do we find a defensible and agreeable plan to move forward? What is the best way?

The answer lies in the first paragraph of this blog post…. a DATA-DRIVEN solution. Upfront, everyone needs to know that they won’t get exactly what they want. This means the community, the officers, the command staff, the purse-string holders, and anyone else who thinks they know the right answer.

It’s hard to argue with numbers and when those numbers are shown to everyone, they become fact. It’s important to be transparent in how these numbers were derived. Once, during my years as an analyst, there was a neighborhood that felt neglected by the police department. They claimed they never saw the police patrol their neighborhood, even as they had high crime and drive-by shootings every weekend. Wow, I thought, we’ve really dropped the ball with these guys. Guess I better see what they’re talking about. I did my analyst thing, pulled the data, cleaned the data, and gathered additional data just to make sure I didn’t miss anything. Where was this high crime they spoke of? Drive-by shootings, surely we’d have records? The data was succinct. Low crime, and no drive-by shootings. Did they have crime, sure, but it was minimal in comparison to other neighborhoods. We sympathized with their perception that they were neglected by the police. But, when we showed them (with DATA) that we really need to spend our time in the neighborhoods that had higher crime and we couldn’t justify pulling cops from high crime areas where they are needed more, they actually agreed! They didn’t come away with what they wanted but were satisfied with the reason why.

The same solution applies to patrol staffing. There’s a plethora of data available to do this, specifically within CAD. The key is to know exactly which elements you need, how to scrutinize and clean that data, how to organize it, and most importantly how to apply it.

Interested in learning more about the most efficient way available to deploy our patrol officers? Click here

The Need to Recalibrate Staffing as Attrition Rises and Recruits Dwindle

Assuming there was no other option, many agencies moved to 12-hour patrol shifts, thinking that was the only way to maintain minimum, or close to minimum, staffing levels.

To say that workloads have changed for patrol officers in the recent past is an understatement. For some, pandemic shutdowns altered which calls officers respond to in-person and temporarily decreased the day-to-day workload. Then more serious resource-intensive calls related to violent crime started creeping up. When the shutdowns lifted, society was anxious to get moving again. As all of this happened, law enforcement officers reevaluated their career choice and began leaving in droves. Agencies suddenly found their patrol ranks dangerously short-staffed.

Many responded by disbanding specialized units, pulling detectives out of investigations, and sending all warm bodies to cover patrol shifts. Assuming there was no other option, many agencies moved to 12-hour patrol shifts, thinking that was the only way to maintain minimum, or close to minimum, staffing levels.

48 officers on a 12-Hour schedule

It may seem like an intuitive move. However, inefficiencies can hide in 12-hour shift schedules. Either there is no overlap between shifts and officers frequently get held over, or, if there are overlapping cover shifts, then too many hours become overstaffed.

The inefficiency of a 12-Hour schedule

Recruiting woes were being felt by law enforcement agencies even before the pandemic hit. Now recruiting is even more difficult and agencies are upping their game, offering hefty monetary incentives to attract the pale number of applicants.

Realistically, it will be a long while before recruiting catches up with attrition, if it ever does at all. In the meantime, robbing Peter to pay Paul is not sustainable. There’s a need for specialized units, now probably more than ever, and there has to be personnel dedicated to investigating and closing cases. Agencies need to ask themselves if they’re running patrol operations as efficiently as possible. Besides pulling bodies from other areas, what can agencies do to better staff patrol? The answer is to look at their SCHEDULE. Examining how patrol officers are deployed can uncover inefficiencies. By capitalizing on better deployment configurations, agencies can find a better fit between the number of officers they have and the workload their community demands.

48 officers on a 10-Hour schedule
More efficient 10-Hour schedule

Creating, changing, altering and adopting a patrol schedule requires computations on vast amounts of data. Utilizing this data, Corona Solutions harnesses the power of artificial intelligence to provide service projections based upon any given schedule. Deploy PlusTM from Corona Solutions provides detailed insight into patrol workload and the Deploy application. Visit our website to see how the value of this platform can work for your agency.

Rapidly Assessing the Impact of Modified COVID-19 Deployments

When the COVID-19 outbreak started and Safer-at-Home orders began, many of our partner agencies struggled (and continue to struggle) with a variety of issues, resulting in many agencies running much leaner than normal. In response, we created a case study examining four patrol scheduling configurations and the effect on response times among the different options.

When the COVID-19 outbreak started and Safer-at-Home orders began, many of our partner agencies struggled (and continue to struggle) with a variety of issues, including:
– Protecting officers from the virus
– High rates of officers calling in sick
– Being short-staffed and having to pull staff from other units to cover patrol
– Incurring overtime costs to keep patrol staffed

In response to these issues, many of our partner agencies started running their patrol operations much leaner than normal, implementing more online reporting for offenses and moving toward only responding in-person to higher-priority calls.

To assist these agencies, we compared four different scheduling options with the first two based on an agency’s normal schedule. Then, we created two patrol scheduling configurations (10-hour & 12-hour) that would give officers 18 days off between their 2-week work period, allowing for the recommended 14-day isolation period if an officer thought they may have been exposed to COVID-19. We can help your department as you find the best schedule for your people during this uncertain time in policing!

10-Hour vs 12-Hour Contingency Schedule Plans

One of the most common metrics in patrol operations and performance measurement is response time to high-priority calls or Priority 1 (Pri 1). In this case study, we demonstrate how a Corona Solutions partner agency can instantly see what effect each of the schedule configuration options will have on this highly-visible metric. This allows agencies to make these critical decisions based on data instead of loosely-defined guesswork.

Contingent schedules are meant to be implemented only after careful consideration and should be temporary in nature. Contingent schedules are not meant to satisfy operational goals, such as providing adequate uncommitted time for officers to engage in proactive work. Limiting the number of interactions officers have with the public will create shortcomings in the schedule. This is to be expected. The ability to drill down to exactly when those susceptible times will occur is the advantage we give our partner agencies.

For example, trading a vulnerable hour on Sundays from 01:00-02:00 for Thursdays from 16:00-17:00 would be logical knowing that restaurants and bars are temporarily closed and crowd levels on early Sunday mornings will be diminished. Yet, the number of people making essential trips on Thursday afternoons will likely be higher.

Here are the comparisons of emergency response times and analyses for each contingent schedule option for one sample agency:

Unaltered – Original Schedule

Unaltered Operations – Unaltered Schedule

This Original Schedule provides a baseline for measuring one of the most common metrics in policing: response time to high-priority calls. This assumes nothing has changed regarding their patrol operations. There has been no reduction in their patrol operations and thus no contingent schedule needs to be implemented. Response times hover between six and nine minutes throughout the week.

Unaltered – Original Schedule with 30% Fewer Officers

Unaltered Operations with 30% Fewer Patrol Units

This Schedule represents what would happen to Priority 1 response times if the agency did not alter their patrol operations, continuing to respond to all calls, yet with a 30% reduction in patrol staffing due to sickness or other absenteeism. This is also assuming they remain on their original schedule.
Response times greatly increase from 01:00-07:00, 11:00-15:00, and 18:00-21:00 on each day of the week.

High Priority Response Only – 10 Hr Schedule

Responding to High-Priority Calls Only with a 10-Hour Contingency Schedule

If an agency were to alter their patrol operations and only provide an in-person response to high-priority calls in order to reduce officer exposure, this graph illustrates what effect a 10-hour Contingent Schedule will have on the response times. To maintain social distancing guidelines, agencies will likely move to or adhere to a 1-to-1 car plan (only one patrol officer per car). This 10-hour Contingent Schedule requires more vehicles than the 12-hour Contingent Schedule. Choosing this over the 12-hour option will be dependent upon the number of vehicles the agency has available. Response times hover between five and 12 minutes most hours of the week and, about 15 percent of the time, will reach 16+ minutes.

High Priority Response Only – 12 Hr Schedule

Responding to High-Priority Calls Only with a 12-Hour Contingency Schedule

If an agency were to alter their patrol operations and only provide an in-person response to high priority calls to help reduce officer exposure by implementing a 12-hour Contingent Schedule, this graph illustrates that effect on the response times. Again, agencies will likely move to/adhere to a 1-to-1 car plan. This 12-hour Contingent Schedule requires fewer vehicles than the 10-hour Contingent Schedule. Since there is no overlap in this schedule, the cleaning and disinfecting of the vehicles will have to take place at shift change, further reducing the number of officers available to handle calls for service. A staggered EOS (End-of-Shift) and SOS (Start-of-Shift) is advised in this case. Response times hover between four and ten minutes throughout most of the week with vulnerable times isolated to a few hours each day.

In Summary

Each schedule configuration exposes pain points in some hours of the week. Moving the start times displaces the pain points to other hours of the week. It would certainly not be the most ideal nor efficient schedule, however, it’s important to keep in mind that these are just contingent schedule configurations designed for temporary implementation.

To obtain a contingent schedule based on your agency’s needs and call history, contact us to help you make smart, data-driven decisions regarding your patrol deployment and scheduling. Corona Solutions’ services allow you to see the realtime workload fluctuations and adjust deployment accordingly so that the demand for service is met while protecting the health of the officers.

Next Steps

Agencies can’t stop policing in uncertain times, so it’s always best to be prepared the next time there is a need for contingent scheduling! Learn more about Corona Solutions deployment tools and inquire about the benefits of becoming a partner agency. If you’re already one of our partner agencies, contact us for assistance in evaluating these contingent schedule plans for your agency!

If you’re not currently subscribed to our new Deploy Plus platform, consider subscribing and explore the power of continual patrol workload analysis. Our Deploy Plus platform is unique in providing both software and service, allowing patrol operations to operate efficiently, meet operational goals, and adjust as needed to match dynamic environments.