Nearly 500 Los Angeles police officers flooded the regular meeting of the city’s Police Commission on Tuesday, urging members of the civilian panel to approve a new work schedule that would mean many police would work only three days a week.
The contentious session marked the largest gathering of police before the commission in years, and it reflects the intense rank-and-file and political interest in the proposed schedule. If approved, the so-called “compressed work schedule” would allow most officers, particularly those in patrol assignments, to work three days a week for 12 hours a day.
Officers support the idea and cite a host of reasons for it: According to proponents, the shorter weeks would be good for officer morale, while the longer days would mean less overtime and better deployment of police officers from their stations. LAPD reform advocates also note that one recommendation of the Christopher Commission in 1991 was to create incentives for experienced officers to work patrol, and they say the compressed work schedule would provide one such incentive.
Critics, including some top staffers of the LAPD, warn that the shorter weeks make managing police more difficult. In addition, some have raised questions about the long-term effects of a workweek that has officers spending more days a week off duty than at work--particularly in a Police Department where most officers live outside the city.
Tuesday, however, the rhetoric ran strongly in favor of the idea.
“You expect these folks in this auditorium to be the best,” Los Angeles Police Protective League President Dave Hepburn told the police commissioners. “They ought to be treated like they are the best.”
Officers applauded loudly at Hepburn’s remark, and 16 more followed Hepburn to the lectern. Every one endorsed the compressed work schedule.
Some suggested that the department’s management has dawdled for too long with the proposed schedule. Although Police Chief Willie L. Williams has yet to make a formal recommendation to the Police Commission, the issue has been extensively studied.
Demonstrating that, two union leaders hoisted a wheelbarrow onto the stage of the LAPD auditorium. It was overflowing with reports, all of them about the compressed work schedule.
“How many more trees do we have to chop down?” asked Dennis Zine, a director of the police union. “Enough studies, enough research. It’s time to move it along.”
The board did not vote on the proposal Tuesday, but Commission President Raymond C. Fisher said he hoped the panel could take action soon. The commission is scheduled to discuss the proposal next week in its closed session, and could consider a formal vote on the matter at that session or at the meeting the following week.
Lurking beneath the issue itself is the potential impact it may have on Williams’ attempts to secure a second term as chief. Although Williams had long expressed reservations about adopting a new work schedule, he recently has made public statements supporting it, and some critics have accused him of jumping on the bandwagon in order to advance his chances of reappointment.
The Police Commission is considering Williams’ application, and is expected to decide in the coming weeks.
Leaders of the Police Protective League deny that they have agreed to back Williams’ bid for reappointment in return for his support of the new work schedule. But Zine has said that league leaders will give Williams credit if a new schedule is adopted--a move that he and other league officials say will help the chief’s long-tenuous standing with the LAPD rank and file.
Tuesday, Zine criticized some LAPD command staffers for opposing the compressed work schedule, but he pointedly excluded Williams from that criticism. Afterward, Williams said that adopting the new schedule would obviously boost LAPD morale, but he stressed that he was not supporting the proposal to advance his own interests.
“I don’t think this has anything to do with my reappointment,” Williams said.