Injuries and absences from the South Lake Tahoe Police Department have been more of a concern to officers than a recent schedule change, according to testimony this week.
South Lake Tahoe police officers are expected to continue working three 12-hour shifts per week for at least another year after the South Lake Tahoe City Council took a look at the results of the new schedule Tuesday.
Officers and detectives at the police department switched from working four 10-hour shifts per week to three 12-hour shifts per week in August in an attempt to more efficiently schedule hours at the department and decrease overtime expenses.
Officers still ended up logging 40 hours per week, with the remaining hours split between activities like training, putting on and removing emergency equipment and court time.
The schedule change resulted in a savings of about $15,750 in three months, according to Lt. Brian Williams.
"It is more efficient and it has saved us some money," Williams said Tuesday.
There have been communication issues following the schedule change because supervisors are still on the old schedule, meaning officers do not always work with their direct superior, according to a staff report from Williams. There is also no overlap in shifts, preventing officers from sharing information in person.
Although the City Council expressed concern about officer fatigue with the new schedule, Officer Ray Poole, who serves as the president of the Police Officers Association said absences have led to more frustration among officers than the schedule itself.
Officers at the department are roughly split on whether they favor three 12s or four 10s, according to the staff report.
Absences have caused officers to be called in frequently, often not allowing them expected amounts of time off.
Three patrol officers are injured and two are not on the streets during training, Poole said. Officer Johnny Poland continues to be on paid leave following the initiation of a FBI investigation in November 2011. Officer Matt Morrison, who has been training as a K-9 handler, is expected to return next week.
"With these injuries that we've had we haven't really seen the numbers on patrol go up," said Detective Jeff Roberson. "As a matter of fact we've seen them go down."
There have been numerous days when only one or two patrol officer are available, Roberson said.
Neither Poole nor Roberson had immediate answers for the shortage of officers on the streets. Allowing some overtime to get at least three officers on patrol every day may be one way to help, Roberson said.
City Councilman Hal Cole told the police representatives that overtime pay is available if its needed, especially during the busy period between Christmas and New Year's Day.
The Police Officers Association contract with the city is up in September 2014. The schedule is likely to be discussed as part of contract negotiations.