Law enforcement is a round the clock activity. Officers work all hours of the day and night just patrolling the city. There's also required training, hearings, pre-trial interviews, and court appearances to contend with. Fatigue is an officer's constant companion.
Sleepiness/fatigue in the work place can lead to poor concentration, absenteeism, accidents, errors, injuries, and fatalities. In the USA, shift work sleep disorder results in the loss of thousands of lives and approximately $18 billion annually.There's little doubt that fatigue affects one's cognitive ability. Interestingly "the tragedies of Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, Space Shuttle Columbia, and the Exxon Valdez all occurred during the night shift and were attributed to human fatigue"(Officer.com). A 2006 FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin compared an officer's ability to drive a vehicle to that of someone who has over indulged.
• After 20 hours of wakefulness, neurobehavioral functions are impaired equivalent to that of a drunk with a BAC of 0.10. Noticeable impairment sets in well before that;Shift Work Sleep Disorder (SWSD) is a real and common problem in law enforcement and a 2007 Harvard sleep study placed the incidence of sleep disorder in the law enforcement community at 38.4%(ScienceDaily.com).
• Even moderate levels of sleepiness “can substantially impair the ability to drive safely,” even before you actually fall asleep at the wheel;
• The ability to maintain speed and road position on a driving simulator is significantly reduced when the normal awake period is prolonged by just 3 hours;
• “After 24 hours of sustained wakefulness, the brain’s metabolic activity can decrease by up to 65 percent in total and by up to 11 percent in specific areas of the brain, particularly those that play a role in judgment, attention, and visual functions;”
• As people, including officers, “try to fight through periods of fatigue, the human body, in an effort to rest, goes into microsleeps” where you literally fall asleep “anywhere from 2 to 10 seconds at a time. It is difficult to predict when a person, once fatigued, might slip into a microsleep.”
• As little as 2 hours of sleep loss on just one occasion “can result in degraded reaction time, cognitive functioning, memory, mood, and alertness;”
• “Fatigue is 4 times more likely to cause workplace impairment than alcohol and other drugs.” Ironically, chemical abuse normally is “addressed immediately by management. However, the lack of sleep, probably the most common condition adversely affecting personnel performance, often is ignored.”
APD made the switch to the new 5/8 system claiming that they were trying to improve response times.
Spurred by poor response times, Schultz said this week that he will change the shifts next month of all uniformed officers and detectives from four 10-hour days a week to five eight-hour days.You'll never guess what one of the first suggestions for combating fatigue among officers is... Yep, longer shifts with longer blocks of time off.
Consider alternative forms of organizing work schedules. Extended workdays of 10 or 12 hours have the advantage of fewer consecutive night shifts and longer blocks of time off.Providing 3 days off a week doesn't mean that officers will be lounging around the house driving their families crazy for 72 hours, particularly for junior officers whose lack of seniority results in having those days off during the work week. As we've told you (read it here), an officer's off-duty responsibilities are significant - 4/10s typically result in perhaps one day off and at least 3 days where the officer can get the crucial 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep.
Our Eyes tell us that fatigue has already become a problem in just one short week. Officers aren't responding to radio calls promptly and are showing up to pre-shift briefings visibly fatigued.
The 5th Floor has decided to send out officers whose abilities to "comprehend complex situations," "manage events," "perform risk assessment," "control [their] mood," "recollect the timing of events," "monitor [their] personal performance," and "communicate effectively" (read it here) in order to improve response time?! Looks to us like the Boys on the 5th Floor have taken a step in the wrong direction and more importantly, increased the danger to the public.