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Thursday, March 20, 2008
Albuquerque Police to Work 5-Day Weeks
By T.J. Wilham
Journal Staff Writer
Albuquerque Police Chief Ray Schultz is about to make one of the most unpopular decisions of his administration.
He is going to make all officers work five days a week.
Spurred by poor response times, Schultz said this week that he will change the shifts next month of all uniformed officers and detectives from four 10-hour days a week to five eight-hour days.
Union leaders say the move will be unpopular among the rank and file.
"There are a lot of officers who are going to take this pretty hard," said Ron Olivas, president of the Albuquerque Police Officers' Association. "This is not going to go over well at all."
Schultz acknowledged the change would be unpopular, but he said APD's poor response times justified it.
The average response times for all types of calls have increased by more than three minutes since 2002. The response times for top-priority calls such as shootings and home invasions have increased by 1.3 minutes.
The new schedule would put more officers on duty during peak call times.
"I know this is not a popular decision for the officers," Schultz said. "But it is important we do this so we can provide better quality of service to the public."
Schultz recently put together a team to study department call volumes and shifts to see if response times could be improved. The team pinpointed peak hours and determined when more police officers were needed.
The only answer, Schultz said, was to put officers on eight-hour days.
The number of calls is highest on Friday nights. Under the new shifts, 208 officers would be available, compared with 171 under the current schedule.
The change also will affect all detectives and plainclothes officers. Schultz said he wanted to put those officers on the new schedule to make them more available to the public. Detectives will now work 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.
Olivas said the change will create problems for officers and their families. Olivas said his office has received about 70 phone calls from officers since rumors spread a few weeks ago about the change.
Olivas said officers have said the shift changes will conflict with things like a spouse's work schedule or child care arrangements and will take away overtime opportunities.
"Our officers' lives revolve around their shifts," Olivas said. "The officers would like to see if there are any alternatives or anything else that can be done to address (the response times).
"A majority of officers are asking 'Does it have to be this way?' ''
Last week, the union approved a three-year contract that will give young officers a 47 percent raise over the next three years along with other incentives.
Olivas said he didn't think Schultz's announcement was related to the contract. He said that officers bid for new assignments every April and that the only good time to change the shifts would be then.