Last Monday, the hours of the Oneonta Police Department patrol officers’ workday increased 50 percent.

But the number of days off in a month have more than doubled.

Whether this is good or bad will be determined in about three months.

The shift change is an experiment that entails switching from an eight-hour, five-day workweek, to a 12-hour, two-days-on, three-off schedule.

The Common Council last year cut the department’s authorization by one position to save money, and the mayor formed a Police Department task force to consider the department’s future.

The test grew out of the task force. 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. The PBA has been encouraging a shift change for at least seven years.

Ten-hour shifts were considered but wouldn’t work with the staffing and needs of the department, police officials said.

The department has 12 patrol officers, two recruits in training and two patrol officer vacancies.

An advantage of the change is that officers would have more time off, union and city officials said. 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,” Oneonta Police Chief Dennis Nayor 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.

The increased time off would be a draw for recruiting, according to Eric Berger, a detective and PBA president. “With younger officers and the younger generation, time off is becoming more important.”

Another goal of the 12-hour shifts is that overtime would decrease, even with four hours of scheduled overtime every two weeks.

Starting near the end of November, the results will be studied for the efficiency of coverage, the impact on overtime spending, case management, the reaction of officers and more.

The city of Oneonta and the PBA must both be in favor of 12-hour shifts if the plan is to be made permanent.

We look forward to seeing how it turns out. If officers can get more time off, be more content in their jobs and save city taxpayers money without major problems involving fatigue and lack of coverage, the change will make sense.

If not, the city and PBA can weigh the positives and negatives and make a decision from there.

We’re glad a three-month trial is being conducted before anything permanent might be enacted

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