State police to keep 10-hour work shifts

Barracks commander says more time needed to assess the impact

January 19, 2000|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

State police in Westminster plan to retain 10-hour work shifts begun six months ago for road patrol troopers, concluding that the longer workday is likely to be outweighed by overtime savings and more efficient law enforcement.

The decision to retain the change from five eight-hour workdays a week to four 10-hour days, which began June 30, had to be made now because schedules for the 100 troopers assigned to the state's largest barracks must be provided six months in advance to Carroll County court officials to avoid conflicts, said Lt. Terry L. Katz, barracks commander. If troopers must appear in court on days off, overtime costs can skyrocket, Katz said.

"Ideally, we began 10-hour shifts to reduce the amount of overtime," he said.

The longer workday "hasn't done everything we had hoped for, but a six-month study is too short to decide to make a change. We're not going to scrap it," he said.

Overtime savings have not materialized, Katz said, stressing that overtime costs have been skewed by extra duties related to potential Y2K computer problems.

But state police officials hope that a review in six months will confirm their belief that the 10-hour shifts save overtime money through more efficient scheduling and handling of incidents that occur near the end of a trooper's shift.

"Our overtime is incident driven," Katz said. "Since budgets are prepared two years in advance, we have to monitor how it's spent and adjust accordingly."

Overtime costs aside, the lieutenant said 10-hour shifts have provided flexibility in scheduling and sufficient time to hold daily roll calls for each shift, allowing for better communication with all troopers.

While most police agencies start each daily shift with roll call, state police had never held them until Katz began calls as a pilot program Sept. 1.

"We can receive a complaint and get the word to every trooper on a shift no later than the next roll call," he said. "That's the true beauty of having the troopers work overlapping 10-hour shifts, being able to hold roll calls, deploy personnel rapidly and save on overtime."

Katz mentioned receiving a call one morning about a small group of motorists speeding along Route 140 about the same time each evening.

He was able to provide vehicle descriptions and have his afternoon and evening shift on the lookout, a move he says might have prevented a reoccurrence.

He said his superiors have expressed an interest in requiring roll calls at all barracks and are observing how successful it is in Westminster.

"Westminster has been called the flagship barracks and, in this instance, it really is," he said. "I didn't think of it as a risky move because I knew it would work and improve our effectiveness."

Katz noted a 70 percent closure rate for criminal cases, though he said he had no previous statistics with which to make a comparison.

He said the roll call could have benefits such as targeting repeat offenders whose photographs could be distributed at roll call.

A trooper might see a targeted individual in a different part of the county and, knowing that person doesn't live in the area, immediately question why the person is there, he said.

Such effectiveness has led to several successful investigations in recent months, Katz said.

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