Griffin PD officers scheduled hours reduced by change to 10-hour shifts

SHEILA A. MATHEWS :::

After being contacted by concerned individuals and upon receipt of a letter from a “concerned citizen,” all of which pertained to a schedule change for officers of the Griffin Police Department’s Uniform Patrol Division, The GRIP reached out to Chief Mike Yates seeking information on the issue.

Of concern to some was the reduction in scheduled work hours for those officers. Under the previous 12-hour shift schedule, officers worked seven days in each two-week pay period. With the change to 10-hour shifts, some said that was reduced to 80 hours worked in eight days during each two-week pay period. The questions raised were would this result in the loss of 104 hours of pay annually, would it reduce the number of officers patrolling the city and had this change been implemented as a form of punishment for officers perceived to be less productive than was acceptable.

In a June 27 interview with Yates, he addressed those concerns and explained the purpose for the change.

“As far as the letter goes, I’m not too inclined to get caught up in some anonymous email. It speaks of a lack of credibility, and as you well know, some people will do or say anything to get their way, so…” Yates said before addressing the matter at hand.

Asked if the change to 10-hour shifts would reduce the manpower of the Uniform Patrol Division, Yates said, “Really not much. Not when you figure in off days and training time off and things like that. You’ve got to think the impact of somebody taking the day off on a 12-hour shift is greater than somebody taking the day off on a 10-hour shift.

On 12-hour shifts, there is no overlap during the peak hours, so you have what you have. On 10-hour shifts, there is a two- to four-hour overlap depending on how you structure them, and you match that overlap to your peak periods of time, so during your peak periods of time, you actually can have as many as double the amount of officers deployed that you would under normal circumstances.

It’s a fairly-common mechanism. Griffin has used it before. Lots of other places use it.”

Responding to the question of whether the change was to punish officers for being unproductive, Yates said that was a concern.

“Well, it does have something to do with productivity, because as people get through their 12-hour shift cycle and they work their long week, they’re less likely to make cases and things of that nature where they’ll be required to come in for court on their off day. We found several instances where people didn’t show up for court, and people perhaps should have made arrests on domestic violence cases and they didn’t, so we can’t take chances with that,” he said, later adding, “There’s also some relationship to going to court because with 10-hour shifts, you have more people that can be scheduled that can go to court on their regular assigned day to work instead of having to work over or come in.”

He said the decision was also based on a “study of how we were being deployed, trying to reduce our overtime costs and trying to cover our peak hours better.”

Yates explained that he had preferred eight-hour shifts, but was willing to try 10-hour shifts to see if they would be successful.

“I mean, to be honest, my preference was to go to eight-hour shifts, but I compromised on it. I think you’ll see a trend regionally and nationwide in some ways in going back to eights,” he said. “Now, we are a bit of an anomaly in this region because I think we’re probably one of the few – if not the only entity around here – that is essentially 100 percent staffed and has a waiting list of people to come to work here. I don’t know particularly exactly what’s driving that, but we’re in much better shape than we’ve been in a long time, so because of that and because of us looking at 100 percent staffing in the eye, you know, I was willing to compromise and go to the 10s. And I worked 10s for a long time. I like them.”

Another benefit of shorter shifts is less fatigue and fewer working days.

“People are tired on 12-hour shifts,” he said, adding, “As agencies are having difficulty filling positions, agencies are having to work personnel more days per pay cycle.”

When asked if the 10-hour shifts would remain in place, Yates did not rule out the possibility of further shortening shifts.

“I don’t know. We’re going to give this one a good honest shot and see how it works, and if it doesn’t work, then we might, but you never know. I’m confident it will work,” he said.

Addressing the question of whether shortening the shifts would result in officers being scheduled to work fewer hours, Yates strongly denied that legitimacy of that concern.

“You were told wrong. Imagine that,” he said.

He explained that on 12-hour shifts, officers worked one long week consisting of four shifts and one short week consisting of three shifts, for a total of seven shifts per two-week pay period. On 10-hour shifts, officers work eight shifts per pay period.

“There’s not a dimes worth of difference between the two as far as the amount of time they work and what they’re compensated,” he said.

When asked how he accounts for the four-hour difference, Yates said, “Ten hours is a little bit deceptive because it’s actually 10.25 hours per day because they’re required to come in 15 minutes early. In the pay period, it amounts to exactly the same number of hours worked as on a 12-hour shift during a two-week pay period.”

Yates then questioned the purpose of the interview.

“Let me ask you this – this is the first time I’ve ever done an interview over a shift change. What’s the interest in that other than someone’s anonymous nasty-gram?” he asked. “I’m sure there’s a personal motivation there.”

Following this interview, questions remained regarding Yates’ claim that officers were scheduled for no fewer hours under his shift change. Thus, a follow-up phone interview was conducted.

At that time, the Chief reiterated his stance that officers lost no scheduled work hours.

“That’s correct. The same number of hours,” he stated.

Even taking into account his statement that officers are required to report 15 minutes prior to their shift start time, a difference of 3.75 hours remained.

“That’s not, it’s 10.5 hours per day. They get paid for their lunch, too,” he said.

Yates then said that on 10-hour shifts, UPD officers are allowed an additional 15 minutes on the clock upon the conclusion of their scheduled shift.

“We figure that in on the end for finishing up paperwork and things of that nature. If you’ll note, in real life, on 12-hour shifts, there’s always overlap and some time coming and going, too,” he said.

When asked if the two 15-minute periods were not also in place when officers worked 12-hour shifts, thus making them a 12.5-hour shift, Yates said, “No, it was a 12-hour shift. The ten hours are done a little bit different so they can have some communication with one another as the shifts overlap. You have people coming and going, but not all at the same time, so it helps to pass on information from one shift to another instead of everybody changing at one time with a little interface between the shifts. I mean, they still tried to talk to one another, but there was not compensation. The 12s were 12s.”

After the conclusion of this phone interview, Yates emailed The GRIP and said, “Shift Hours 10 Hour shifts = 10.5 hours per day X 8 Days in a two week work cycle = 84 Hours Shift Hours 12 Hour Shifts = 12 Hours per day X 7 Days in a two week work cycle =  84 Hours Just for clarification”

The GRIP again attempted to clarify whether the two 15-minute increments were exclusive to 10-hour shifts.

Yates responded by saying, “I have already explained this to you fully. I even sent you a follow up e-mail explaining that both 12 and 10 hour shifts have the same number of “scheduled” hours per pay period, 84, 2184 hours per year. I also explained that in “real life” the hours vary due to having to stay late, being called in, court and training hours. Barring a fmla (sic) leave or something extraordinary every officer will work more than the “scheduled” 2184 hours per year irrespective of whether they are on 10s, 12’s or even 8’s. To infer, or attempt to report, that officers may suffer some “loss” in hours worked, due to a shift structure change, is totally false and would compromise journalistic integrity.”

In an abundance of caution, The GRIP then determined to hold this story from print pending receipt of additional information following an Open Records request reading, “Pursuant to OCGA 50-18-70 I wish to obtain the full payroll policy and procedures of the Griffin Police Department for 12-hour shifts and ten-hour shifts.”

The records provided in response to this Open Records request – the GPD Standard Operating Procedures Title 20: Chapter 20 Patrol (for both 10- and 12-hour shifts) – did provide the final clarification sought.

Contrary to Yates repeated denials and concerns regarding compromised journalistic integrity, the policy for both 10- and 12-hour shifts is identical.

Both state, “To provide continuous coverage during shift change, the oncoming watch shall commence roll call not later than fifteen minutes prior to the hour duty begins. Officers already on duty shall begin coming in to the station no earlier than five minutes prior to the hour their duty ends.”

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