The Verona Police Department switched from eight-hour shifts to 12-hour shifts at the start of the year, and the change has sharply cut police overtime. At the Town Council meeting on Monday night, Township Manager Matt Cavallo said that officer overtime has fallen by 81% in 2019, compared to the same period last year. Dispatcher overtime has been similarly reduced.
In its new contract, the VPD agreed to switch to a so-called Pitman schedule. It splits a workforce into four crews, which work either a day-time or night-time 12-hour shift in a rotation of two shifts on/two off, followed by three on/two off, and then two on three off. Each crew now includes a lieutenant, a sergeant, four officers and a dispatcher. The officers work more hours over the two-week Pitman cycle, which reduces their overtime, but they have every other weekend off. In the previous system, the officers were split between three shifts that covered 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. and 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., and they got a weekend off only every six weeks.
“In a department as small as Verona’s, we did not have the manpower to support the schedule we were working,” says Cavallo, who along with Township Attorney Brian Aloia negotiated the new contract with the police union. Verona was one of the last towns in Essex County to not be on a Pitman schedule. Under the police contract, Verona can revert to the previous three-shift schedule in 2021 if town officials determine that the new schedule is not beneficial.
“It’s the most efficient way of manpower allotment,” says VPD Chief Christopher Kiernan. “Full squads will provide better coverage for proactive patrol and more opportunities for details,” which are assignments such as traffic posts and community policing.
“My officers are a dedicated group who are committed to Verona and the residents they serve,” adds Kiernan. “I think their willingness to enter into this new schedule agreement is another testament to that commitment.”
While the Pitman schedule is reducing what had been one of the main pressure points on Verona’s municipal budget, not all the savings will fall to the bottom line. That’s because two officers did so well on the recent police exam that they are being promoted to lieutenant, and one made a substantial jump in pay grade.
The town manager and the Town Council have been working to cut overtime in all areas of municipal government. A government reorganization measure approved in February 2018 redefined the structure and duties of employees from the township administration to the municipal court. Verona spent $558,000 for overtime in 2018, down from $795,000 for 2015.