April 13, 2020


PERF’s COVID-19 coronavirus resources, including past editions of the Daily COVID-19 Report, are available at https://www.policeforum.org/coronavirus.


Innovative Approaches to Police Staffing and Scheduling During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Across the country, police departments and sheriffs’ offices are working to balance two competing interests as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic: ensuring sufficient personnel to maintain operations while minimizing the spread of the virus among officers and deputies.

Agencies have taken such steps as:

-- Returning specialized personnel to uniformed patrol duties;

-- Moving from 8-hour to 12-hour shifts;

-- Diminishing contact among officers by moving roll calls outdoors (where greater social distancing is possible) or using technology to conduct “virtual” roll calls; and

-- Reducing overlap in the presence of personnel in locker rooms and other station facilities.

In today’s COVID-19 Report, we present different approaches that agencies are taking to maintain staffing and minimize risk to their personnel.


Duluth, MN Police Department:

5-On/15-Off Scheduling System

The Duluth Police Department has implemented an emergency scheduling system that temporarily places all but a handful of the department’s 158 sworn members in uniformed patrol, working 12-hour shifts. Personnel are divided into patrol groups assigned to the day and night shifts.

Under the system, each patrol group works for 5 consecutive days, and then is given the next 15 days off.

During those 15 days, personnel are expected to follow the stay-at-home and social distancing guidelines from the city and state. If they show no symptoms of COVID-19 during that 15-day period, the officers are cleared to return for their next five days of work. 

“Our basis for this approach has been to keep our employees and the public the safest they can possibly be during these unusual times,” said Deputy Chief Laura Marquardt. She said the department has worked with the police union board to address any contractual issues. 


Park Ridge, IL Police Department:

“Paid on Call” Program

In Park Ridge, Chief Frank Kaminski has implemented a COVID-19 staffing plan that creates a “paid on call” status for his 55 sworn officers. The plan is designed to maintain patrol coverage and minimize possible COVID-19 exposure to personnel. Following are the key points about how this works:

--The department already had 12-hour shifts, and the existing shift configuration and rotation are maintained.

--However, each shift is now split into two groups: Platoon A and Platoon B. When Platoon A is scheduled to work, Platoon B will maintain a “Paid on Call” (POC) status. When Platoon B is scheduled, Platoon A will be POC. 

“The platoon on a POC status will remain in a state of readiness, and will be available to report to work immediately whenever it is deemed necessary.  While on POC status, personnel will shelter in place at their primary residence,” the department staffing plan states.

--Personnel on POC status are required to check in with their Platoon Supervisor at regular intervals throughout their shift, and to check their department email regularly as well.

--In addition, personnel on POC status may be given assignments to complete at their residence.

The staffing plan also establishes a reserve platoon consisting of remaining officers and supervisors. Any manpower shortages are filled either by the platoon that is on POC status for that shift or members of the reserve platoon.

“This has created levels of redundancy in case one group gets the virus,” Chief Kaminski said. “This system was implemented several weeks ago.  So far, the feedback from staff has been positive, and we have been able to deliver essential services.  And above all, it helps to protect our staff.” 


Long Beach, CA Police Department:

Staggered Start Times to Increase Social Distancing

Some agencies are discovering that their personnel are being exposed to the coronavirus not from family members or members of the community, but from fellow officers.

As a result, departments are working to eliminate, or at least minimize, unnecessary contacts among personnel.

The Long Beach Police Department is doing this by adjusting the start times within each of its patrol shifts for its 825 sworn officers.

“We have implemented staggered start times for each of our three patrol shifts,” said Assistant Chief Wallly Hebeish.  “Squads are split into groups that are separated by 30 minutes to maximize social distancing in locker rooms and police facilities, while still allowing effective levels of staffing in the field.”


Washington County, MN Sheriff's Office:

On-Call Program for Patrol, Jail and Communications Center Personnel

The Washington County, MN Sheriff’s Office, which has 110 sworn members, has initiated an emergency scheduling system that creates 12-hour shifts for patrol deputies, corrections officers, and staff in the Emergency Communications Center. 

Patrol deputies and jail personnel are put in a rotation of being on duty for 5 consecutive days, then off for the next 10 days. 

During that 10-day period, the department identifies three days in which deputies are paid to stay home and be "on-call,” in case they are needed to fill in for regularly scheduled deputies who are out or to address an unexpected increase in activity.

The sheriff’s office has scheduled personnel under this system through mid-June.

“The goal is to build our bench in case we have a significant reduction in force due to deputies or correction officers being in quarantine for COVID-19,” said Chief Deputy Brian Mueller. “Our hope is that this schedule also allows our personnel to be home with their families staying healthy.  All of our labor unions have been hugely supportive of this move.”


Hayward, CA Police Department:

Creating a Standby Team

The Hayward Police Department reassigned personnel in most specialized units back to patrol, and has created three teams for its 175 sworn employees.

Each team has a day shift and a midnight shift, and shifts are 12.5 hours.

A team works 7 straight days, followed by 14 days off.

“A designated team is on standby, while off, in the event staffing levels drop below our designated minimums,” said Captain Will Deplitch.


Montgomery County, MD Police Department:

Creating Backup for Patrol Among Investigatory and Support Staff

Montgomery County, MD is a densely populated suburban county adjacent to Washington, DC, and its Police Department has 1,300 sworn members.

Chief Marcus Jones has focused on ensuring that the department’s patrol ranks will be maintained even if a large number of uniformed personnel become infected with the coronavirus. The department is turning to investigatory and sworn support personnel to provide that backup.

To minimize the number of investigators working in district stations, the department has instructed some investigators, as well as sworn support personnel, to work remotely from home, with the understanding that these personnel are available to respond if needed to back up uniformed patrol.

“We have changed the work schedules of investigators and sworn support staff to back up our patrol units in case we lose personnel due to the outbreak,” Chief Jones said.  “We have also emphasized teleworking with our executives, and we continue to emphasize that personnel in work environments practice social distancing at all times.” 


Middletown Township, PA Police Department:

Two Paid “Relief Days” Each Pay Period

In Middletown Township, the 57 sworn police personnel are currently maintaining their 12-, 10-, or 8-hour shifts, depending on their assignment.

During the COVID-19 crisis, police personnel are eligible for two paid “relief days” per pay period, which do not count against their accrued leave time.

At the beginning of each pay period, every officer, based on seniority, selects two days off with pay for that period.

“This extra time off allows for less exposure to the officers, and also gives them some time to tend to their own families at home during this health crisis,” said Chief Joe Bartorilla.


Fort Mitchell, KY Police Department:

Creating a “Healthy Reserve” in a Small Agency

The Fort Mitchell Police Department is a 15-person agency that was already short one officer and had another officer in field training when the coronavirus pandemic hit.

To reduce officers’ exposure, the department moved from 10-hour days with staggered or overlapping shifts to 12-hour shifts with no overlap.

The department also moved to create a “Healthy Reserve.”

“Our detective and I began to work from home this week so we can be the department’s Healthy Reserve,” said Chief Andrew Schierberg.  “Thankfully, our School Resource Officer has been able to fill one of our shift openings.” 


The PERF Daily COVID-19 Report is part of the Critical Issues in Policing project, supported by the Motorola Solutions Foundation.


PERF also is grateful to the Howard G. Buffett Foundation for supporting PERF’s COVID-19 work.

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