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Costa Mesa police change shift structure

One outside expert cautions that fatigue can be an issue for officers assigned to longer days.

January 31, 2012|By Lauren Williams

The Costa Mesa Police Department earlier this month switched to a new schedule that officials say will give the city coverage at times it needs the most.


FOR THE RECORD:
Police staffing: An earlier version did not make clear the actual number of sworn police officers in the Costa Mesa Police Department. The correct number is 131.

But one outside expert who has studied police shifts cautioned that fatigue can be an issue for officers assigned to longer days.

About half the city's patrol officers are now working 12 hours three days a week, Friday through Sunday, said Lt. Bryan Glass.

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The rest put in 10-hour shifts four days a week, Monday through Thursday.

City CEO Tom Hatch said in an email that the shift changes do not affect the department's budget, but instead provide for more coverage in the field for responding to emergency calls.

Police Chief Tom Gazsi said the new schedule is a pilot program that will be assessed monthly by a study group to examine issues of overtime, productivity, fatigue, injuries and response time to calls.

He called the new schedule essential with a police force that's now smaller due to citywide cutbacks.

"With decreased staffing it was necessary to move to a modified staff system to maintain efficient staffing levels," Gazsi said, adding that previously the 4/10 workweek had heavy overlap.

He said that the department uses the extra hours in the 3/12 schedule for special field operations, special events staffing and to provide training time. He added that the new schedule also allows officers to spend time during the week on self-improvement.

"Predictability of working weekends allows our personnel for professional development and educational opportunities during the week, as well as family and relationship dynamics," Gazsi said.

He added that the model allows for consistency in police service to the community.

"This model follows the tradition of area policing, and oversight whereby officers work consistently together and for the same watch commanders to ensure continuity of policing," Gazsi said.

The shift toward 12-hour days — a national trend among smaller police agencies trying to save money — is potentially dangerous, said Karen L. Amendola, the principal investigator on a Police Foundation study that examined police shifts.

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