Winnipeg Police Physical Fitness – Part II

The potential cost of the proposal by the Police Union in real terms

During the helicopter debate I discussed the concept of opportunity savings which in that context dealt with the number of officer hours that the introduction of a new tool or technology might free up.  The saving comes in the form of an opportunity to redeploy officers for a period of minutes or hours to a new duty from the duty they previously were engaged in.  Such redeployment is referred to as opportunity spending.  

In both the opportunity saving and spending scenarios the bottom line in terms of budgeted spending remains static.  Change is instead reflected in the activities in which the officer’s time is invested.  In order for the equation to remain truly static an opportunity saving must be created  before opportunity spending can be contemplated. 

The recent attempt by the Winnipeg Police Association (WPA) the union representing police officers in Winnipeg to get the city to agree to paid workout time as part of their regular shift is an example of opportunity spending.  

The union would argue that it is a no cost item as officer salaries (and the salary budget) would not increase.  From the union perspective it is simply a matter of time reallocation from regular duties such as uniform patrol or investigations to time spent working out in the gym.  They would argue that there is no real ‘loss’ to the city.  From the union perspective the city would be swapping patrol time for officers who would in turn be more fit and effective during the times they are on the street.  

Because the union proposal did not contain any ‘savings’  to be invested, there would be a significant cost to the city in terms of time diverted from regular policing duties to work outs.  For union/management bargaining purposes, this body of time needs to have a dollar value attached to it.   From the city’s perspective the starting point would be to calculate a dollar value based on a scenario where all eligible officers availed themselves of the benefit at every opportunity.  For the purpose of this discussion let’s look at a scenario where all 1328 officers employed by the WPS (based on the authorized 2008 complement) chose to take advantage of either a 20 or 30 minute paid workout period during each shift worked.     

The maximum amount of  time that would be consumed if all officers were granted 20 minutes to work out per days would be roughly 64 hours per year per officer.  Multiplied by the total number of officers that works out to approximately 84,000 thousand hours.  That is the equivalent to removing 40 officers from the street for a full year.  Add to that the 20 minutes of accumulated time that would be taken by the officer and the ‘street absence’ doubles to 168,000 hours or the equivalent of 80 officers per year.  

Under the 30 minutes per workday scenario it would work out to 96 hours per officer,  representing a total of 60 person years that the city would give up and once the additional time off taken by officers is factored in, it works out to losing the equivalent of 120 officer years of street duty.     

These calculations are based on the presumption that all officers work 10 hour shifts.  The fact is that many officers work 8 or 9 hour shifts.  For officers working the shorter shifts the cost would be significantly higher since they work more days per year and would therefore have more opportunities to avail themselves of the work out time.  The calculations are done on a worst case scenario from the city perspective, assuming all officers availed themselves of the work out provision at every opportunity.  The union  would argue that would not happen and that there would not be 100 percent uptake on the program.  They are  correct but in a scenario where you don’t know what would happen you need to establish what could happen (that is, the potential risk to the city).     

In dollar terms the opportunity spending cost of this proposal would be close to 2.95 million dollars for the 20 minute plan and 4.4 million dollars for the 30 minute plan.  This again is based on a worst or best case scenario (depending on your perspective) where each officer availed themselves of the workout period during each shift.  

The union’s position has consistently been that the city requires more police officers on the street.  It is difficult to mount a logical argument to expand the police complement when in the same breath you say that removing the equivalent of between 40 or 60 officers from active street duty would not negatively affect service delivery.

The next post in this series will examine the bargaining approach the union used in this instance and the difference between positional and interest based bargaining.