Overtime is always good when payday comes. The problem is this: the hours that are needed to get the extra pay may come at a very high cost. Based on my experience, I would bet that in most departments the ‘80/20 Rule’ applies: 20% of the officers are working 80% of the available overtime.
Officers all over the country are working extra hours – or double shifts – in order to meet the minimum staffing level needed to patrol their community safely. Some officers love overtime and will soak it up whenever they can while others do not!
Some cops just do not want to work that many hours. It has nothing to do with not wanting to serve and protect. I believe it has more to do with maintaining a balance in the time spent with work, family and health.
The general public probably doesn’t realize that police officers are sometimes mandated to work long or extended hours – even when they don’t want to work.
This may be due to a serious event where the officer must stay to finish an investigation. It may be due to a natural disaster occurred or other community emergency. On other occasions, it may be that someone called in sick and there is no one else who is willing to fill the spot.
In all of these instances, someone may be “forced over” or mandated to stay and fill the vacant spot.
FILLING THE HOLES
When an officer takes a day off, whether it is a sick day, a vacation day or personal time, that void on the schedule needs to be filled.
So how do you fill it when no one volunteers to work?
The supervisors (me included), must inform someone that they are working extended hours or another complete shift. Most often, it’s the officer with the lowest seniority who gets tapped.
Forcing a cop to work when he doesn’t want to work is the last thing we want to do to our guys after they have already put it on the line for their regular shift.
In all areas, not having the adequate number of officers on patrol or in the jails presents a safety issue for the officers who are working. It’s just as dangerous when those same officers are too tired to be effective.
Sadly, it’s a trend all around the country that officers are sleep-deprived. Now, bundle that with unwanted double shifts and extended hours and it can spell disaster.
This is nothing new. It’s been going on for decades. The majority of cops have been facing this issue most of our careers.
The problem of dangerously tired cops who are being over-worked could be relieved by adding more officers to agency rosters. The obstacle to that solution is that agencies don’t have unlimited resources to pay for more officers.
Sure, we would love to see more officers out there, but the plain truth is that the budgets just don’t allow for it. State, county and local municipalities are not bottomless caverns filled with cash. That’s a misconception.
There are financial limits just as there are limits to working an exorbitant amount of hours day after day.
THE HARD REALITY
Having too few cops on the street to adequately police a community risks the lives of its citizens.
Having cops who are over-worked and tired on the street puts the lives of the officers at risk, as well.
As the politicians squeeze law enforcement budgets, we must ask ourselves what price we are willing to put on a human life. That is what frugality in law enforcement will buy us.
At the bottom line, it’s all about saving just ONE life.
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