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September 9, 2013

Oneonta's Police Department's 12-hour experiment to begin

Oneonta patrol officers today will start working 12-hour instead of eight-hour shifts.

During a three-month trial, the Oneonta Police Department will study the efficiency of coverage, the impact on overtime spending and case management and the reaction of officers, among other factors, city and union officials said last week.

An advantage to the 12-hour shift plan is that officers would have more time off, union and city officials said, and the evaluation of the pilot will consider whether longer shifts result in fatigue that has a negative impact on coverage, productivity and performance of duties. 

“It’s something that I’m going to be watching,” Police Chief Dennis Nayor said.

The pilot in shift changes grew out of the city’s Police Department Task Force, which is studying staffing levels and other department issues. The scheduling experiment also is timely, union and city officials agreed, because the Police Benevolent Association’s contract with the city expires at year’s end.

Under the revised schedule, three patrol officers will work each shift, Lt. Douglas Brenner said, and the shifts will be from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. Officers will work two days, then have three days off.

“It affords more time off,” Eric Berger, a detective and PBA president, said. “With younger officers and the younger generation, time off is becoming more important.”

The patrol division is composed of younger officers starting their careers. The average age of PBA members, including detectives, is 29, with an average 4.5 years of service, Nayor said.

Kathy Wolverton, city personnel director, said the average salary of the 12 patrol officers is $45,000. The contractual starting salary of an officer yet to attend a police academy is $37,000 annually, she said.

The task force, in studying how much of a police force Oneonta needs and can afford, identified a 12-hour-shift schedule among measures to consider in recruiting candidates and to improve retention among young officers, Mayor Dick Miller said.

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