Atlantic City police union members will vote today on whether to reconfigure their workweek in an attempt to put more officers on the street.
The move would change the wording of the police contract to allow for the option of four 10-hour days over the current five eight-hour workdays police have worked for decades.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to get additional officers on the street during critical times when we are busiest,” police Chief Ernest Jubilee said.
A review of the records-management system and calls for service showed that call volume and seriousness are at their highest from 2 p.m. until 2 a.m., union President Paul Barbere said.
The new system would be broken into four shifts, rather than the current three, with 16 hours of shift overlap. Currently, each shift has a group that comes in early and a group that comes in late to fill the gap that would occur because the shifts have no overlap, Barbere explained.
While all union members, from officers to lieutenants, will vote, patrol would be the first to move to the new shifts, if approved. The target date to start is Oct. 20, but that would require officers submitting requests for their preferred shift, or “rebids,” which regularly happen during the year. The latest rebids just took effect this month, so it would mean going through the process once again for patrol officers.
“The change is going to be drastic, so there has to be some good reasons,” Barbere said. “The reason I’ve been pushing for this is it puts the bulk of your manpower on the street during the times they’re needed the most.”
Jubilee said the current five-day workweek is the only one he believes the department has ever had.
“But it has proven, over the years, to be inefficient,” he said. “The new 10-hour shift will allow us to better utilize our patrol at critical times.”
The memorandum of agreement would be a for a one-year temporary move, Barbere said, to see how this works. After a year, the union would vote again to make it permanent.
This will not fully solve the manpower problems, which include that the ranks are currently below the 330 minimum the city, union and state have agreed the department needs, Barbere said.
City Council still must decide whether to hire officers from a so-called “Rice list” of officers laid off throughout the state or wait until a new test is administered that would create a hiring list consisting of city residents. That, officials have estimated, could mean no new officers ready to be on the street until 2015.
As for the new shifts, Barbere said he believes the vote will be close, with some officers not wanting a change.
“I keep saying 60-40, I just don’t know which way,” he said.
Public Safety Director Will Glass — a retired deputy chief — said he believes it’s “a win for everyone.”
“We get more officers on the street, and they get additional days off,” he said. “At the end of the day, it may save us some money (in overtime). I think everyone benefits if we do this.”
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