Oct 5, 2008

Michigan police department considers 24-hour shifts ... to cut costs

The National Shiftwork Information Center believes in applying the best research to managing shiftwork operations. We are not aware of any substantial body of research on police officers working 24-hour shifts so we're hesitant to make any definitive statement about it. Let's just say we're skeptical.

The article on the Detroit Free Press (Detroit, Michigan, USA) mentions that this is not unlike 24-hour shifts used in hospitals. But, it is different. Part of the justification for long shifts in the hospitals is continuity of patient care. Police officers do not typically have protracted interaction during a shift with a specific individual. It's very different. And the safety of 24-hour shifts in health care are already suspect by many.

And, in this case, the change is not being proposed as a way to provide better service, or as a way to improve safety. It's a cost-cutting move. Just to reiterate the National Shiftwork Information Center policy, we are not an advocacy group. We have no axe to grind here. We're on the side of alertness, safety, productivity, and work/life balance.

There are many practical issues to be addressed. Will police officers be permitted, or expected, to sleep in their cars? What if they're woken out of deep sleep to respond to an emergency situation?

The bottom line -- we're all for exploring and researching. It's by pushing boundaries that we discover breakthroughs. But we urge extreme caution here, for the safety of the officers and the general public they serve.

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