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LAGUNA BEACH : City, Police Agree to Flexible Work Hours

City and police officials said Monday that they have reached an agreement to allow the Police Department to arrange flexible work schedules for a one-year trial period.

The Police Department’s contract with the city is scheduled to expire June 30, and alternate work schedules had become a stumbling block in contract negotiations that started in April.

“We got the one sticking point out of the way and the association and the city are both happy about it,” said Jon Fehlman, president of the Laguna Beach Police Employees Assn. “We’re ready to get down to business and negotiate a new contract.”

Under the agreement, patrol officers will be allowed to work three 12-hour days for two weeks, and one additional eight-hour day sometime during the two weeks to make 80 hours. Motorcycle officers will work four 10-hour days each week.

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“We just think 12 hours is just too much to be pushing around a heavy cycle,” City Manager Kenneth C. Frank said.

Dispatchers and records clerks will be assigned a work schedule that best fits their needs, Fehlman said.

While the flexible schedules should make it easier for Laguna Beach to hire and keep personnel, the city must consider whether the longer hours will take too much of a toll on the officers, Frank said.

“The real question is whether people will be fatigued and become more irritable and less productive,” Frank said.

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Sgt. Don Barney, former police association president, said the program will boost morale and efficiency in the department.

“There’re so many times you just cannot wrap up a police investigation in an eight-hour period,” he said. “There is going to be a fatigue factor, but other departments have adapted to it.”

La Palma was the first Orange County city to adopt flexible police schedules, Frank said. Los Alamitos and San Clemente recently switched as well, he said.

The new hours will become effective June 25 if the plan receives the anticipated approval from the City Council on June 19, Frank said.

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