The police union says that the move may help department recruitment efforts.

The Honolulu Police Department plans to move patrol division personnel to 13-hour shifts starting in August.

But HPD ended a similar 12-hour schedule that was in place between 2000 and 2006 over department concerns that fatigued officers posed a safety threat to themselves and to the public, an issue that continues to be debated and studied.

In 2006, then-Chief Boisse Correa noted officers were fatigued after 10 or 12 hour shifts, and the shifts contributed to at least one officer-involved car accident, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin reported.

That schedule was a rotating 12-hour patrol shift that squeezed 40 hours into three days. Now the department plans to roster patrol officers on 13-hour shifts over three consecutive days.

Honolulu Police Department HPD solo bike officer parked along King Street near Aala Park.
Extended shifts won’t help with understaffing, but may help with HPD recruitment, SHOPO said. (Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021)

The 3/13 schedule is meant to allow more time off for officers to decompress, extend weekends for recuperation and take family time and second jobs, according to the state’s police union.

Currently patrol officers work nine-hour shifts five days a week but will transition to a three-day work week consisting of one 13-hour shift and two 13 1/2 hour shifts.

The rest of the police department will remain on the current schedule.

But some experts question the change.

“That doesn’t sound safe. It doesn’t sound safe to the officers, and it doesn’t sound productive to management,” said Steve Nasta, adjunct lecturer at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.

Nasta, who was an NYPD officer for 33 years, was surprised to hear about the 13-hour shifts.

“It sounds really good, but they don’t realize what 13 hours is.” Nasta said. “After eight hours of answering radio runs, and helping people and seeing really bad stuff, now you still have five hours to do?”

He cautioned that fatigue could impair officer decision-making and lead to deadly consequences.

“God forbid, you stop a car and you see somebody reaching for something that you think is a gun,” Nasta said. “And then it turns out that it wasn’t a gun — it was a cell phone and the guy was just reaching quicker than normal. But meanwhile you’re on like hour 12 and a half and you fire in faith, and you made a mistake.”

The Honolulu Police Department said it’s too early to comment about the shift change’s details and did not respond to questions about why the original extended patrol shift ended.

Nicholas Schlapak, Honolulu chair for the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers, said the union requested the extended schedule for patrol officers because members wanted a better work-life balance.

In 2022 HPD restarted the previous extended schedule in Districts 4 and 5 — including Kailua, Kaneohe, Kalihi and the airport — to compare with officers still on the nine-hour schedule.

After the trial period, the department countered with the 3/13 schedule instead.

“It was really just a quality-of-life issue, as far as the off time goes,” Schlapak said. “For police officers, it’s really hard to decompress from the job with only two days off.”

HPD Honolulu Police officer stands along Kalakaua Avenue.
The inherently random exposure of patrol officers to stressful situations was the determining factor for fatigue, according to the state’s police union. (Cory Lum/Civil Beat)

Potential Aid To Recruitment

While SHOPO was concerned about the issue of on-the-job fatigue, Schlapak said officers reported similar levels of fatigue for the 5/9 and 3/12 schedules.

He said the job’s random exposure to stressful situations was the determining factor for fatigue.

“For a patrol officer, you’re essentially the handyman,” said Schlapak. “Your whole day is just essentially problem solving. So it’s really a matter of what kind of problems you have to solve for the day.”

Schlapak said recruitment to patrol – from inside and outside the department – is also a priority.

“You try and give them a schedule that optimizes as much time off as you possibly can,” he said.

Nasta from John Jay College said extending shifts would not make up for staffing shortages since officers are stretched thinner to cover more work. He said police officers have told him they prefer the 10-hour shift over eight and 12.

A 2011 Department of Justice study on extended police work hours showed 10-hour shift outcomes were optimal in comparison to eight and 12 hours. Fatigue and loss of sleep were major negative impacts for 12-hour shifts, and found “sleep deprivation can intensify the stress experienced by officers which, in turn, may result in poor judgment being exercised by an officer.”

Similar results were found by a 2011 National Policing Institute survey, which also noted sleepiness increased and alertness decreased between 10 and 12 hour shifts.

Quality of life measures were mixed in both studies.

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