If you talked with the police officers of Gilroy, California, in 2014, they would have told you their community had changed. Midday was no longer a quiet time, and while the late-night bar rush was still there, it didn’t feel any more rushed than a Saturday at the Gilroy Premium outlet mall.
While major crime trends were down—violent crime was down 24 percent from 2008 through 2013—and the department had taken a successful and aggressive approach to addressing gang issues, it was clear that the city needed more officers on duty to effectively respond to calls for service and meet the community’s expectation for community-oriented policing.
Since sworn police officers were eliminated through attrition during the recession, the city had committed to restoring staffing levels and added police officers back in fiscal Years 2013, 2014, and 2015.
Department officials knew anecdotally that the city wasn’t helping address busy times of the day and allowing patrol officers to spend quality time in neighborhoods and with businesses. They realized this quality-time strategy was part of the successful approach to dropping violent crime rates by 24 percent in the previous two years.
The question the city needed to understand was how many officers should be restored to have sufficient officers on duty and be both responsive and proactive? Answering this question required a detailed understanding of what is known as dispatched calls for service (DCFS). A proactive approach to community policing requires that patrol officers not be consumed with responding to DCFS and have enough time to be proactive.
The Gilroy police worked a 4/10 schedule, where patrol officers worked rotating 10- hour shifts, four days a week. The city council had previously established a 40 percent target of proactive policing time, leaving 30 percent of the time for administrative duties—report writing, court, and training—and 30 percent for DCFS response.
The department was not able to meet this 40 percent proactive policing target, however, because of the recession that began in 2008. Further analysis was necessary to understand how many officers would be needed to effectively meet the council’s targets.
Department personnel also wanted to re-evaluate their workload trends and call volume to determine if the current schedule was working to meet policing goals.
Studying DCFS, workload demands, and patrol work schedule revealed that the department had two primary busy times during the week: Monday through Thursday workday activity and Friday through Sunday restaurant and bar traffic. Figure 1 (below) demonstrates the Monday through Thursday peak workload period, where the Patrol Division consistently experiences significant increases in DCFS data beginning at 8:00 a.m. and carrying until after 6:00 p.m.
Figure 1. Workweek DCFS Trends: Peak Periods, Monday–Thursday
This daytime workload increase is representative of the fact that Gilroy is dissected by a major interstate and contains a number of outlet shopping centers that draw significant daytime populations.
The second peak workload period, identified in Figure 2 relates to the weekend bar and restaurant traffic, during the late night and early morning peaks, Friday through Sunday.
Figure 2. Weekend DCFS Trends: Peak Periods, Friday–Sunday
An analysis of the information indicated that DCFS workload trends under the 4/10 schedule showed the city would need to hire 15 additional police officers to meet the community standard for proactive policing and the council’s 40 percent pro-active target.
It was determined that if the city considered a more standard 33 percent proactive target recommended by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), it would still need 11 additional officers.
While the economy was certainly improving, there was not a million dollars at the ready to add that many additional officers. The question thus became one of efficiency. Was there a different schedule that would better align with the department’s peak workload times?
The reality was that a 10-hour shift schedule was not well-suited to the workload profile that had developed in the community over time. Initially, the schedule was designed to accommodate the weekend peak workload period, which it did. The schedule, however, remained static while the policing environment evolved.
The department found that patrol was running from call to call during peak hours. The 10-hour shift configuration provided multiple shift overlaps that effectively compounded the number of officers available during those overlap periods; however, the shift overlap was not paired with the heaviest workload periods.
The question then became, “If not the 10- hour shift, then what shift would be best to meet the new workload demands?”
Considering a number of staffing options for the city’s demand profile produced some interesting results. Figure 3 shows the scenarios that were calculated. Ultimately, a hybrid of a 12-hour shift with a weekend power shift produced the most efficient solution for Gilroy’s demand profile.
Rather than adding 15 or 11 sworn personnel to the patrol division, as shown in Figure 3, negotiating a shift change would require as few as two additional officers and effectively save the city more than $1 million per year in additional officers.
Figure 3. Possible Staffing Scenarios
Police departments across the country work a variety of shift schedules. Those schedules are frequently memorialized in labor agreements, which was the case in Gilroy. This meant that any change in schedule would need to be negotiated.
During bargaining-unit negotiations, Gilroy was able to negotiate a change in shift schedules, and it is now better positioned to serve the community and meet its targets. The city and bargaining unit finally adopted a 4/10 and 3/12 hybrid schedule.
The schedule has been in effect since August 2014 and is working well. Sufficient staffing is allocated to the peak workload times, and officers are having more proactive time during their workday. Further analysis will occur at the one-year mark of the change to determine if patrol officers are meeting the 33 percent proactive target.
In the meantime, councilmembers approved hiring three additional officers in 2015 to meet the needs identified in the staffing study. The department will also implement strategies to direct time toward recent crime trends, known offenders, and crime hot spots, all in an effort to reduce crime.
It is easy to request additional staffing when the police department can justify the positions with factual data on changing community demographics, increasing population or crime data, plus good, solid analysis. In this case, Gilroy was able to craft requests around the data it had and then negotiate it with the bargaining unit successfully.
The department believes these changes will allow for effective community policing. The obligation that comes with a large allocation of general fund tax revenue for public safety services is to be as efficient as possible and ensure that staffing properly matches the community’s unique profile for demand in services.
In Gilroy, this meant avoiding hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional labor costs by collaborating with the bargaining unit to implement a more efficient shift schedule.