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.

How Many Officers Do You Need?

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.

To see how different schedule configurations can improve officer safety, watch the video “Scheduling for Officer Safety” at www.coronasolutions.com, and reach out to see how we can make this work for your agency.

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.

Who Will Respond in the Meantime?

Over the last few decades, policing has evolved to be the catchall for societal ills that were previously not considered to be law enforcement related. The amount of police resources spent on non-criminal activity has been creeping up over the years, requiring agencies to take on more responsibility and driving decisions regarding enforcement directives. On May 25, 2020, a historic fracture occurred in the direction policing will take in the future. How policing will look moving forward remains to be seen. Demands appear to center around redirecting response of non-criminal events to entities other than the police.

If police will no longer be responsible for dealing with non-criminal activity, you won’t find many police agencies complain, but diverting that response is going to be like turning a cruise ship….. s l o w!

In the rush to defund police, many city leaders are becoming aware that there are no viable solutions for not having police services today. The future may see a host of community-based teams and trained personnel equipped to respond to non-criminal calls. We can all hope, right? In the meantime, it will likely continue to fall on police agencies to handle these non-criminal situations. But, how do agencies deliver these services whilst their budgets come under scrutiny and face cuts?

For police agencies to survive these cuts, they must quantify the resources required to respond to non-criminal calls, not only to protect their fragile budgets, but also to provide solid data for the next corp stepping up to take on that responsibility. How many co-responders, licensed social workers and therapists will communities need to hire? What days should they work? What hours should they work? Leaders will turn to police departments, those that have handled these crises, for answers. The smart thing for agencies to do right now is to start quantifying the services they provide the community and justifying the resources they currently need to defend their budget dollars.

Workload analyses consistently reveal that a large volume of patrol resources (including the number of officers that respond to calls, time spent by each officer on the calls, and ancillary patrol costs) are spent on non-criminal activities. Being homeless, transient or mentally ill is not a crime. However, calls that revolve around these circumstances are where the bulk of patrol resources continue being consumed. In the current era of policing, resource justification needs to be evidence-based. Police agencies need data to justify how much it costs in salary, benefits, equipment, and the like for non-criminal response. There’s a treasure trove of information that agencies can harness to justify the need for resources and help tell their stakeholders “don’t be so quick to cut our budget or here are the services we will no longer have the capacity to provide.”

With a detailed account of the resources they expend on non-criminal activity, police agencies can preserve budget dollars. Agencies can show stakeholders, including government leaders and the community, exactly what services, and how much of those services, their budget dollars are buying. If police agencies can’t justify how they are spending the money, the community is unlikely to give them any. In the below sample, the police agency can clearly illustrate how many non-criminal calls, how many officers responded to the calls, how much time each officer spent on the scene, and how much cumulative time was consumed (over 6,700 hours!) on just three non-criminal activities.

Sample analysis from Deploy Plus Report

While the future of policing is being hashed out amongst community leaders, there are still non-criminal events that need to be dealt with. The only entity currently able to handle these are the police. Presently there are no teams of trained personnel at the ready the next time a call is received about the person walking in and out of traffic talking to themself or the homeless camp that popped up behind a business overnight. Those calls will still land with the nearest police agency and, hopefully, there will be an available officer to send.

Deploy Plus by Corona Solutions easily and economically provides agencies with the tools to show stakeholders the exact services their budget dollars are buying. More importantly, it illustrates what services will be lost to budget cuts. Who will respond then?

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.