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?
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.
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 PlusTMplatform from Corona Solutions rigorously measures demand so the appropriate resources can be scheduled for each hour of each day.
To successfully answer the question of how many officers you need is completely dependent upon first answering “to do what?”
This question is constantly posed to police chiefs and sheriffs across the country. Law enforcement leaders ask for more bodies, then the stakeholders limit the number or deny it all together. To successfully answer the question of how many officers you need is completely dependent upon first answering “to do what?”
The answer does not lay within a simple finite number, rather it is dependent upon the schedule employed. Minimum staffing levels will change and be impacted by the number of officers scheduled for each hour of the week. This requires the workload to be examined hourly while recognizing the different workload during different days of the week.
In making the request for additional personnel, many agencies compare themselves to others based on simple calculations like officer per capita, but if stakeholders don’t really see the pain points, no additional positions will be allotted. If the agency is getting by with the staff they have, then stakeholders will ask the department to continue operating a lean force.
What if leaders could specify the ‘bang-for-the-buck’ they’re asking for? Stakeholders, do you want 5-minute response time to priority calls at all hours? Then it will require an additional 7 officers.
Stakeholders, do you want officers to spend time engaging the public and furthering the community policing effort? Then it will require an additional 10 officers.
It is vital for agencies to illustrate exactly what the impact will be on police services in these current times of budget decreases, restrictions and hiring freezes. What if you could show stakeholders and community members that decreasing the patrol compliment by 10% will result in not only reduced services, but exactly when and by how much it will delay response to priority calls? Perhaps that delay isn’t something they’re willing to trade for the cost savings.
The ability to specify exactly when and what the additional dollars and positions will buy adds legitimacy to the request and improves the chances it will succeed. Agencies need data and evidence to show exactly when and where the pain points are currently or when and where they will be without adequate staffing.
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
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 Schedulewith 30% Fewer Officers
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
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
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.
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.
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 newDeploy 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.