The 18:1 Police Officer to Patrol Unit Ratio

This is the last in a series of posts dealing with the 4/10 shift schedule and will answer the question that has been previously raised: why does it take 18 officers to staff 1 two-officer patrol unit?

If you have not read my post on the 4/10 shift schedule you might want to read that first for some background on this posting.

Under the 4/10 shift schedule officers assigned to general patrol are divided into 2 platoons, A-Platoon and B-Platoon.  When A-Platoon is working B-Platoon is off and vice versa.  Except for overlap periods half the personnel in general patrol are off duty.

Each platoon is subdivided into 3 sub-platoons, which correspond to day shift, evening shift and midnight shift.

So right off the bat in order to field 1 two officer unit the police department must assign 2 officers to A1 platoon to work day shift, 2 officers to A2 to work evening shift and 2 officers to A2 to work midnight shift.  That’s a total of 6 officers on A-Side.  The same thing happens on B-Side which now brings us up to 12 officers.

In many work places the staffing plan may call for, say, 5 people performing a particular function.  If one is not available they simply operate with 4.   In the case of the police service the Collective Agreement must be factored in.  The Agreement stipulates that each shift  must start with  27 two-officer patrol units.

In order to meet the Collective Agreement requirement the Service must have available  a pool of officers that can be drawn upon in the event one of the 12 officers assigned to staff a patrol unit in not available to work. That brings us to the crux of the matter.  On average, how many hours a year are officers not available to work their assigned shifts and what is it that draws them away?

The following is a list that covers most of the issues that  draw officers away from being available to work their assigned unit:

Sick Leave

For some time sick leave within the Service has averaged around 60 hours per year per officer.  In the past officers were able to ‘cash in’ a portion of their unused sick leave upon retirement.  That provision was removed some years ago through the collective bargaining process.  There is a general concern within the Service that as the ratio of officers who do not have a sick leave cash out option increases,  sick leave use will escalate.

Court attendance The number of court appearances for officers is dependent on the number of arrests they make and the number of traffic tickets they hand out.  The bottom line is that once  a subpoena is served, there is no option – the officer must attend.

In the last decade a program has been instituted to reduce both the on duty and off duty hours officers spend in court.

Statutory Credit Leave  As part of the 4/10 shift schedule agreement between the City and the Winnipeg Police Association, officers are required to work statutory holidays as they fall.  The working agreement stipulates the statutory holidays that will be observed  and a formula is used to determine the average numbers of hours  officers work on statutory holidays.  The premium rate is then applied.  Instead of paying officers overtime for those hours worked they are provided with a Statutory Credit Leave (SCL) bank.  This is a bank of hours officers are required to take as time off during the course of the year in which it was earned.  Statutory credit leave works out to 149.5 hours per officer per year.

Temporary Assignments The Service  operates a number of units that are over and above the authorized complement.  As well, ad hoc working groups are created and assigned to special projects on an ongoing basis.  The staffing for these above complement and ad hoc working groups is largely drawn from the pool of uniform officers assigned to general patrol.  The number of hours of temporary assignment time varies from year to year.

Extras duty leave (EDL)  This is another time bank  in which officers are allowed (and in some cases encouraged) to accumulate time.  When officers attend court, or work overtime at the end of a shift, they generate overtime.  Overtime can be claimed as pay or can be accumulated as EDL.

For the most part officers in their ‘best five years’ (for pension purposes) will not accumulate EDL as under the Winnipeg Police Pension Plan overtime is pensionable income. Officers in their best five years, usually their last 5 years  prior to retirement, primarily take overtime in the form of pay.

Younger officers who have young families might well see the merits of taking their overtime in EDL so that they can take additional time off.

In any event officers who accumulate EDL must take it as time off and this draws them away from patrol unit duty.

Training All officers are required to participate in mandatory training on an ongoing basis.  Some training such as firearms re-qualification is an annual requirement while other training is less frequent.  As well, officers are drawn away from regular duties to attend out of province training at the Canadian Police College and other out of province training institutions.

Maternity Leave Under provincial legislation officers are entitled to go on maternity (and parental)  leave for extended periods of time.  This is a greater reality that as  the Service’s complement of female officers continues to grow there may be an impact on staffing in the future and an adjustment to the 18:1 ratio.

Annual Leave Annual leave (holidays) accounts for another 160-200 hours that officers are away from the work place.

Without getting totally bogged down in details, suffice it to say that when all these absences from regular duties are compounded  officers who work 2080 hours a year are only available to perform their assigned uniform patrol function for approximately 1400-1500 hours per year.

As mentioned earlier, 12 officers (6 on A-side and 6 on B-side) are required to field one unit 24 hours a day 365 days a year.  That works out to 24,960 (12 x 2080 ) person hours.  When officers are only available approximately 1400 hours per year to work patrol, that works out to  18 officers (24960/1400= 17.8).

Hence the 18:1 ratio.