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.

Maintaining Officer Safety in the Midst of Budget Cuts

Police budgets were fragile before nationwide calls to Defund the Police became loud and impossible for government leaders to ignore. This, along with the economic downturn due to COVID-19, is forcing police agencies to do more with less. So how do you maintain officer safety with the availability of backup assistance while your staffing numbers decrease?

Police budgets were fragile before nationwide calls to Defund the Police became loud and impossible for government leaders to ignore. The economic downturn resulting from the COVID-19 crisis hit local budgets hard and fast. Law enforcement agencies were already on track to lose money they thought the economy would provide. Money they were planning to use for hiring more officers and increasing pay amongst other things. Those plans fell apart when the Safer-at-Home orders began and the revenue needed to supply those funds dried up. Now the push to decrease police budgets and divert the funding away from law enforcement is being thrust upon city and county leaders. This is forcing law enforcement to run much leaner than they have in the past.

Most law enforcement agencies were placed on a hiring freeze when the COVID-19 pandemic started, impacting local budgets. Now, those vacancies have become permanent, at least for the foreseeable future. Vacancies in the sworn contingent of law enforcement agencies are immediately felt in patrol operations. Patrol is where new police officer hires are predominantly placed, filling holes created by attrition and the cascade of promotions and reassignments that occur when tenured officers depart.

Patrol operations not only feel the impact of short staffing before other parts of the agency do, but they also are most affected by officer safety matters. Having officers available to respond, when you need them the most, is paramount to officer safety.

So, how do you ensure availability to maintain officer safety and meet the workload demands of your community while your staffing number decreases?

To accomplish this you must employ an evidence-based approach, one that illustrates exactly what the impact of short staffing will have to your patrol operations. Using a data-driven process not only allows you to see exactly when officer safety vulnerability occurs, but it also allows you to transparently define those risks for stakeholders.

Below, an evidence-based approach is used to determine the number of patrol officers needed to secure officer safety. In this example, the agency size and workload dictate that four officers should always be available for backup assistance if needed. For this agency, 105 patrol officers are needed across the schedule to meet that requirement. However, if the agency only has 95 patrol officers to deploy across the schedule due to budget cuts, then the security of having four officers available for backup assistance decreases to only 80% of the time. With this data, stakeholders can make informed decisions with the knowledge of the associated risks with reduced staffing numbers

At the same time, the agency can see what happens to their response time goal by reducing their patrol staff. In this example, if the agency wanted to attain an average response time of 7.5 minutes to emergency calls 75% of the time, they would need 116 patrol officers. If the agency only had 95 officers, as in the above example, they would only be able to attain a 7.5 minute response time average to emergency calls 30% of the time. Again, this provides the agency, stakeholders, and community a transparent, data-driven method to evaluate the effects of reduced staffing on service expectations.

Sample Graphs from Deploy Plus depicting Operational Goal requirements

Whether it’s due to direct budget cuts or redirecting funds, police agencies will need to figure out how to safely deploy and provide effective services with leaner resources. Using data to drive deployment decisions is smart policing.

The Deploy Plus platform by Corona Solutions is the most economical way for agencies to provide this level of transparency and high-level, evidence-based decision making. Contact us today to find out how your agency can adequately staff for officer safety in the midst of budget cuts.

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.