St. Louis County PD pleased with move to 12-hour shift as departments nationwide deal with officer shortages

“Our schedule doesn’t affect the policing for residents, citizens, or business owners. We are here 24/7.”
Published: Jan. 16, 2023 at 10:12 PM CST
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ST. LOUIS COUNTY (KMOV) -- The St. Louis County Police Department is approaching one month since the change to 12-hour shifts for its officers. The move happened in December.

The pilot program kicked off more than a year ago in the North and West County precincts. We’re told it’s a sample size from the precincts facing the most and least violent crime, respectively.

“It was mixed,” Sgt. Katy Styer said.

Sgt. Styer is stationed at the department’s West County precinct. She said some St. Louis County Police officers have come around on the change to 12-hour shifts despite a toll on life at home.

“You’re coming to work earlier, leaving later,” Styer explained. “If you have family and children, you have to figure out daycare or after-school activities.”

In December, St. Louis County Police told News 4 that the move to 12-hour shifts will help the Division of Patrol to staff more beats, also known as patrol areas.

Police said a 12-hour shift requires less overall manpower than a 10 or eight-hour shift. It’s a move the department said many other departments across the country are adopting.

Joe Patterson is the executive director of the St. Louis County Police Association. He said for a department with about 900 officers, it’s at least 75 officers short. He fears that officers could be at risk of working 16-18 hour days, getting six hours of sleep, and then getting right back in their police cruiser.

“We are losing police officers faster than we can hire them,” Patterson said.

Patterson said it speaks to the ongoing national trend of a drop in people interested in a career in law enforcement.

Still, Patterson said call volume and violent crime are rising in St. Louis.

“The slower precincts will wear you out because there isn’t a ton in the middle of the night, and in the busier precincts, you will run call to call,” Patterson said.

The St. Louis County Police Association said the longer shifts don’t help police recruiting, but it doesn’t hurt efforts either. The association attributes the 2014 Ferguson riots as a major factor for the current generation of young professionals not entering the police force.

St. Louis County Police Department officers work 80 hours in a two-week span, with three shifts in week one and four the next.

“Although the12′s, that’s a long day, that gets you more frequent days off,” Patterson said, “[The Fraternal Order of Police] says that’s been a huge benefit for departments for mental health purposes.”

According to the Police Executive Research Forum in a 2022 national survey, breaking down 2021 compared to 2019, new officer hirings were down 3.9%.

The survey also indicated there were 23.6% more retirements in 2021 compared to 2019. There was also a spike of almost 43 percent more resignations among police in 2021 than in 2019. The survey said retirements and resignations were the results of low pay.

While the St. Louis County Police Department sees gaps in staff across the board, the West County Precinct reports a full staff.

Sgt. Styer said the focus of her officers is stolen cars and vehicle larceny. It’s a type of crime the department has worked to combat, which includes partnering up with other departments in the county to hold crackdowns.

“Our schedule doesn’t affect the policing for residents, citizens, or business owners,” Styer said. “We are here 24/7.”