In early 2016, Denver Sheriff Department deputies at the downtown jail will work shorter shifts, a move expected to reduce fatigue and to streamline schedules at the city’s two jails.
Stephanie O’Malley, executive director of the Denver Department of Public Safety, announced the switch to 10-hour schedules Monday in a news release updating the public on the ongoing sheriff’s department reform.
Deputies working at the county jail on Smith Road have worked 10-hour shifts for years. When the Downtown Detention Center opened in 2010, deputies at that facility began working 12-hour shifts.
“What became known throughout this reform process was deputies not only were there for 12 hours, but there was overtime,” O’Malley said. “That is of no benefit to the mindset and health of a deputy who is working those hours.”
While O’Malley cast the change as beneficial to the well-being of deputies, it also should reduce excessive force and other disciplinary problems that have plagued the Downtown Detention Center.
Corrections experts say exhaustion and burnout can lead to other problems, including the use of excessive force when tempers flare.
Interim Sheriff Elias Diggins said he expects the change to happen in early February after the department switches to a new computer program for scheduling.
The new scheduling system already is used by the police and fire departments, Diggins said. It will replace one dependant on paper and an archaic computer program.
The department also will benefit by having deputies at both jails working the same schedules. It will be easier to cross over between the two facilities, Diggins said.
The downtown jail has been plagued with staff shortages for years. That resulted in deputies working thousands of hours of overtime per year, costing the city millions.
The situation also left sergeants scrambling to fill gaps in the schedule, often finding themselves without enough employees just hours before they were needed.
It was common for a deputy to be asked to work an extra four hours on top of the 12-hour shift.
The schedule also varied from week to week so deputies at the downtown jail did not have a routine. It could be grueling and exhausting, said Mike Jackson, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Sheriff’s Lodge #27.
“Your head’s not in the game,” Jackson said. “And you want your head in the game when you are here.”
From The Denver Post