AUBURN – A simpler police schedule should boost officer morale and cut back on overtime, according to Assistant Chief Phil Crowell.

“The schedule doesn’t change our staffing levels, but it allocates officers a little better,” Crowell said.

Until the new schedule took effect, the city had officers coming in at different times all day. One group would begin their 11-hour shifts at 6 a.m., while others would begin at 9:30 a.m. and still others would come on duty in the early afternoon.

The schedule was timed to make sure more officers were on duty at busier times. It left potential holes during lighter times, he said.

“If someone called in sick, someone else might have to stay longer to make sure there was coverage,” Crowell said.

The new schedule is much simpler: One shift starts at 6 a.m. and the other at 6 p.m. There won’t be a time when the city gets close to the minimum coverage. And while each officer’s shift is an hour longer, no officers should get stuck covering for officers who are out sick.

“The fact is, that is really hard on officer morale,” Crowell said. “It’s difficult to come to work for your normal shift if you know there’s a good chance you are going to be held over for five hours.”

The new schedule should also cut down on overtime, Crowell said. The department racked up 100 hours of overtime in the week leading up the Sept. 28 debut of the new schedule. The next week, that was reduced to 15 hours of overtime.

“We’re already overextended, as far as overtime is concerned,” Crowell said. “So we’re not looking at saving money as much as coming in close to budget.”

Crowell said the city is currently six officers short of its optimal staff size. The city has 41 sworn officers, but should hire two more within the next two weeks.

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