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Improving Shift Schedule and Work-Hour Policies and Practices to Increase Police Officer Performance, Health, and Safety

NCJ Number
Police Quarterly Volume: 5 Issue: 1 Dated: March 2002 Pages: 4-24
Date Published
March 2002
21 pages

This article discusses policies and practices to minimize police officer fatigue.


Fatigue is a mental and/or physical state resulting from insufficient good-quality sleep or from prolonged or intense physical, emotional, or mental effort. It tends to decrease alertness, impair performance potential, worsen mood, and interfere with decision-making. The major administratively controllable factors responsible for police officer fatigue are biologically insensitive shift rotation schemes, excessive overtime assignments, frequent off-duty court appearances, and the use of extra and double shifts to cope with personnel shortages. Conservative estimates put the cost of sleep deprivation at more than $100 billion annually. The article suggests areas in which police supervisors can help minimize job-related fatigue: (1) regulating work hours, which may involve establishing how much work officers are allowed to do in a given time period; (2) adjusting shift length, rotation, direction, and pattern; (3) matching personnel to shifts compatible with their biology and interests; (4) educating officers about the hazards of failing to cope with fatigue; and (5) developing fatigue or alertness management plans. Figure, notes, references

Date Published: March 1, 2002