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Chief Draws Fire Over Resistance to Workweek

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Los Angeles police union officials lashed out Thursday against Interim Chief Bayan Lewis’ apparent rejection of a three-day, 12-hour-shift workweek, accusing the department of abandoning a plan the union said would result in more efficient, motivated police officers.

In an attempt to counter a statement by Lewis that the compressed schedule would be bad for the city, union leaders at a news conference said an LAPD report concluded that the “3/12" week could save up to $24 million by reducing overtime, sick time and other costs.

Lewis, in a statement released Thursday afternoon, said such savings would prove unlikely. He did say he he was not completely ruling out the scheduling change, however.

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Lewis, who was out of town Thursday, released the statement through Acting Chief Mark Kroeker saying he has “some serious concerns” about the proposal.

“Chief Lewis believes the expectations of department employees should be lowered in regards to the implementation of a 3/12 plan,” Kroeker said.

Lewis had rejected the idea of the shorter workweek in a videotaped message prepared for officers that was released to The Times earlier this week.

In it, Lewis said the plan would cause managerial headaches and the long hours could lead to officer fatigue. Shorter weeks would also remove officers from the community for too many days at a time, he said.

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An LAPD spokesman said later that the tape had been released prematurely.

Lewis will tape another, modified message for officers addressing compressed workweeks and other issues when he returns to town next week, a department spokesman said. That video is due to be shown during roll calls the week of June 23.

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Union officials warned Thursday that officers will be outraged if the plan is not implemented, charging that the department has a “Jurassic Park mentality” that prevents management from embracing change.

“If [Lewis’] decision is allowed to stand, morale in our department will suffer a serious blow,” said Dave Hepburn, president of the Police Protective League, the union that represents rank-and-file officers. “We won’t stand idly by while our officers are kicked in the face.”

Union leaders said the schedule would leave officers more rested and motivated, allowing them to do better policing. Many would also feel the benefit of less commuting, Hepburn added.

“When the morale of the officers improves, the quality of work improves,” he said.

Hepburn said the LAPD report released last fall analyzed a 2 1/2-year-old pilot project in which about 2,000 LAPD officers worked the modified schedule.

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“I defy anyone to find facts in there that justify killing a 3/12 workweek,” he said.

Patrol officers who attended the news conference agreed, saying their current shifts leave them exhausted.

“I think it would be a morale builder,” said Officer Lisa Gallegos, a bike patrol officer for the Central Division.

“You need to feel like you have time to recover. I spend 12 hours a day often now, and I work a 12-day stretch--how do you think my attitude is on day 10 or 11?”

Some of her fellow officers are considering leaving the force if the schedule is rejected, Gallegos added.

LAPD officers normally work eight-hour shifts and get eight days off during a 28-day period, union officials said. Some detectives work four 10-hour shifts.

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Hepburn said the flexible schedule also creates more incentives for experienced officers to work patrol, a need highlighted by the Christopher Commission in 1991.

“What insanity--we finally have a real incentive and the department wants to kill it,” he said.

Rather than propose implementation of the plan during his tenure, Lewis will explore other compressed work schedules, Kroeker said.

Those alternatives include a four-day week with 10-hour shifts and a nine-day stint in which officers work 80 hours.

The chief’s recommendation will be forwarded for approval to the Police Commission, which shares some of Lewis’ concerns about the risks of a modified week, according to commission spokesman Ken Ferber.

Earlier this week, commission President Raymond C. Fisher said he respected the judgment of the chief on the 3/12 schedule.

Fisher said he was “acutely aware of the morale issues,” but also realized that there is “a negative public reaction” to implementing a schedule where officers only work three days a week.


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