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Cop Workweek: Play It Safe

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Los Angeles Mayor James K. Hahn needs to make a case persuasive to all that his proposed compressed work schedule for police officers is more than a hurried attempt to meet a campaign pledge deadline. He must make the case that a shortened workweek for the Los Angeles Police Department would improve public safety.

In his favor, Hahn no longer champions a blanket three-day/12-hour schedule for patrol officers, which he promised the police union in the mayoral campaign. His new, more flexible plan would combine the traditional five-day, eight-hour shift with a four-day, 10-hour assignment and the coveted three-day week that is offered by smaller departments like Santa Ana that recruit heavily from the LAPD. Hahn says his new plan would put more officers on the street when they are most needed.

Cindy Miscikowski, who chairs the Los Angeles City Council’s Public Safety Committee, raises hard but fair questions: Would response time grow longer than the current standard of seven minutes or less?

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Hahn wants to use the new schedule to recruit officers and keep experienced cops. Would the union allow some rookies to get the plum assignment of a shorter workweek?

Is the proposed schedule based on the most accurate numbers? Does it exclude patrol cops who do not respond to 911 calls, such as those who walk foot beats, ride bikes or have assignments like schools or juvenile?

Will the military call-up of more than 600 LAPD-employed reservists in response to the Sept. 11 attack on America reduce the number of officers available for patrol?

Hahn has an answer for every question. If he is so confident, why not wait for the $150,000 deployment study authorized by the City Council, due in six weeks, or allow independent experts to evaluate the modified plan before the rollout, now set for Saturday?

What’s the mayor’s hurry? Yes, the police union gave him a political key endorsement after he promised he would implement the new schedule within 90 days after taking office, but the clock should be stopped until Hahn can show that flextime for cops won’t give criminals a break.

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