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.

Scheduled vs Actual

How many hours throughout the week does the number of officers scheduled match the number of officers actually working? Does it matter? Can you obtain that data?

“Why are there so many overtime slips?” Lieutenant Harris asks Sergeant Frank. “It’s been a rough month LT, remember my shift has been down two people and one more just got hurt last night.” Upon closer examination though, Lieutenant Harris realizes these aren’t overtime requests for fill-ins to replace missing cops, rather it’s holdovers as too many officers are working past their end-of-shift. The overtime budget is dwindling fast. “Why are they not going home on time?”, he asks himself.

Working past the end-of-shift is not unexpected, but how often that happens is a clear indicator that the schedule may be askew. Even after officers are done handling calls they’re still on the clock. Often officers are hurriedly trying to complete the stacked-up reports at the end of their shift, which only degrades the quality of those reports. Subpar reports end up getting returned to the officer for corrections, only adding to their already long to-do list. The impacts of a mismatched schedule can snowball and are far-reaching.

Agencies are surprised at how many officers they think are on the street versus the actual number working at any given hour. More importantly, though, agencies are often at a loss of how to obtain this information. Without this data, it’s impossible to know if the schedule is out of alignment.

The graph below, from Deploy PlusTM, shows that many hours throughout the week there are more officers on duty than expected. This agency is quickly burning through its overtime budget.

Many more officers on duty than expected throughout the week = lots of overtime

Examining the difference between how many officers are expected to be working and how many are actually working could be the key to fixing a dwindling overtime budget. The graph below shows that there is some leakage of overtime, but not as drastic as the previous example. It also illustrates that there are more officers being held over on Friday and Saturday than the rest of the week. This agency can quickly identify where the shift overlaps need to be addressed.

Just a couple officers are held over a few times throughout the week = less overtime

Throwing officers at a schedule is not going to fix this problem. The solution lies in the ability to determine which hours of the week are suffering and most importantly recalibrating the staffing numbers to match the demand. A well-aligned schedule and allocation create a balanced workload for all and when it’s time to go home……. you can go home.

Click here to see how the Deploy PlusTM platform from Corona Solutions identifies the pain points, recalibrates staffing, and helps save your overtime budget.

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.