Rifle's finest will soon change their work schedules from 10 hours a day for four days to 12 hours a day for three days, with teams of officers and sergeants on rotating schedules so the city has more consistent and efficient police coverage every hour of every day of the year.
Police Chief John Dyer explained the reorganization plan to Rifle City Council at a Dec. 5 workshop. No formal approval from council was needed, but vocal support was given to the plan.
Dyer said one big reason for the change from the schedule used by retired chief Daryl Meisner was that there were times when only one officer was on duty.
"For me, that is a very big problem," Dyer told council. "There were also as many as eight officers on duty on Saturdays and Sundays, Tuesday morning would have only five out of 13 patrol officers working."
Scheduling was also "a nightmare," Dyer added.
"If one officer has a vacation or has to be in court, you have to change everyone's schedule around, and then there are other conflicts, so you're constantly changing things," he said. "There's also the issue of accountability and communication gets to be a real big problem."
Dyer's plan is to form four teams of two officers, overseen by a patrol sergeant. That would require the promotion of one officer to sergeant, Dyer added. The sergeants, who will also have patrol duties, would report to the operations lieutenant, who would report to Dyer, "making for a clear chain of command," he said.
Two teams will work 12 hours a day for three days a week, then have time off, while the other two teams work three other days a week for 12 hours a day and then get time off, Dyer said. Schedules will vary so each day has two teams on duty.
"This way, we don't have the scheduling issues and each sergeant is in charge of his own squad," Dyer explained. "And there's no time when only two officers are working, let alone one."
The new schedule will save the city overtime pay, eliminate the need for "stand by" sergeants to take a police vehicle home at night and allow the department to reduce its fleet by one vehicle, Dyer added.
"I can meet with all four sergeants on a regular basis, and I know the information will be given to all the officers," he said, eliminating the need for "all hands" meetings.
Over time, Dyer said the city should save money under the new schedule, which will take effect on Jan. 1. However, since one officer will be promoted to sergeant, with a higher salary, an estimate was hard to nail down, Dyer said.
"I think the savings in this plan will make up for the extra cost for the promotion," City Manager John Hier noted.
Dyer said officers' pay checks will not change under the new schedule, since they will work the same number of hours over the course of a 28-day work period.
Under federal Fair Labor Standards guidelines, police and firefighters can have their pay checks determined over 28 days, instead of the usual weekly or bi-weekly pay period, Dyer explained. The city personnel manual will be updated to reflect that fact, he said.
"The only downside is that 12 hours on duty can get to be a long time," Dyer added. "But they'll know they have to work for three days, they get three day weekends that can sometimes work out as four-day weekends. I've had positive feedback from the officers we have."
Officers interested in the promotion to sergeant will serve as an "acting sergeant" for a short time, so Dyer and the officer can see how the position fits.
The new schedule will be evaluated after six months, Dyer said.