04/04/2001

Police department switching to 12-hour shifts, Tenn.

Ralph Russo The Associated Press
March 30, 2001, Friday, Final Edition
Copyright 2001 The Commercial Appeal
The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)
March 30, 2001, Friday, Final Edition

(JACKSON, Tenn.) - Police will work longer shifts and have more days off under a new plan to increase street visibility that also includes some officers taking patrol cars home.

Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr. and interim Chief Jim French announced the switch to a 12-hour workday on Thursday.

The plan is part of the continuing implementation of a crime reduction strategy devised by the consultants Linder/Maple Group of New York.

Johnson said the JPD will also increase the number of narcotics officers from five to 19, create a drug hotline for citizens to report drug crimes, create a special personnel unit within the department to focus on recruitment and allow certain officers to use their patrol cars to get to and from work.

"The intent here is to make our streets safer," Johnson said.

The switch from the current eight-hour shift schedule will result in about 26 more officers on the streets during the course of a day, Johnson said.

Officers will alternate working three or four days a week, never working more than three days in a row before having two days off.

French said he hopes the shift change will substantially cut down on overtime. He said it is common now for officers to put in 16-hour days.

"We're making them take the time off they need to keep them healthy," French said.

The changes come just weeks after French took control of a department dogged by internal corruption during the past year. On March 8, former chief Bracy Coleman resigned amid allegations of a sex scandal.

Officer Herman Horton, assistant spokesman for the department, said many officers have voiced concerns over the shift change.

But judging from the feedback he has received, Horton said most officers are either in favor of the change or are willing to see how it goes before making up their minds.

"This is new to a lot of officers," he said.

The 12-hour shifts will begin Sunday.

French said the department will work with those officers who have legitimate problems meeting the requirements of the new schedule.

Also starting Sunday, about 184 officers who meet certain department standards will be allowed to drive their patrol cars home when they are done working, Johnson said.

French said the program was "designed specifically to put the officers within the neighborhoods of this city."

"How would you like it if you had a neighbor who had a big Jackson police car sitting there?" he said.

Officers will not be allowed to drive the patrol cars for personal use.

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