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Shift work and overtime across a career in law enforcement: a 15-year study

NCJ Number
Date Published
13 pages

This study characterized changes in work hours across a career in law enforcement.


N = 113 police officers enrolled in the BCOPS cohort were studied. The police officers started their careers in law enforcement between 1994 and 2001 at a mid-sized, unionized police department in northwestern New York and continued to work at this police department for at least 15 years. Day-by-day work history records were obtained from the payroll department. Work hours, leave hours and other pay types were summarized for each calendar year across their first 15 years of employment. Linear mixed-effects models with a random intercept over subject were used to determine if there were significant changes in pay types over time.  A total of 1,617 individual-years of data were analyzed. As the police officers gained seniority at the department, they worked fewer hours and fewer night shifts. Total paid hours did not significantly change due to seniority-based increases in vacation time. Night shift work was increasingly in the form of overtime as officers gained seniority. Overtime was more prevalent at the beginning of a career and after a promotion from police officer to detective. Shiftwork and long work hours have negative effects on sleep and increase the likelihood of on-duty fatigue and performance impairment. The results suggest that there are different points within a career in law enforcement where issues surrounding shiftwork and long work hours may be more prevalent. This has important implications for predicting fatigue, developing effective countermeasures and measuring fatigue-related costs. (Publisher Abstract Provided)

Date Published: January 1, 2021