The Chief
April 18, 2003

‘Atlas’ Cops Going To Six-Day Week

By Mark Daly

Police officers may have to work six days a week in order to continue the stepped-up counter-terror measures known as Operation Atlas, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said April 9.

To cut overtime costs and avoid fatigue as the $5 million-a-week operation continues, Mr. Kelly said, commanders may soon take officers off of their daily schedule of 12-hour shifts, or tours, and instead assign them to an eight-hour tour on one of their regular days off.

‘Long-Term Plan’

The switch will allow the NYPD to continue its special patrol in the subway and around city landmarks to counter a continuing terrorist threat as U.S. forces in Iraq settle in for a long-term occupation of the country, the Commissioner said.

“We’re not sure how long we’re going to have to stay at this heightened alert,” Mr. Kelly said. “We have to think long-term.”

The department began adjusting its forces last week by reducing the number of Emergency Service Unit officers assigned to 12-hour tours. The move did not represent a scaling-back of Operation Atlas, Mr. Kelly stressed.

“It hasn’t changed, it’s been readjusted,” said, Mr. Kelly. “Some tours might be reduced, someone else’s tour might be increased. We are not cutting back the total resources we devote to it.”

The group most likely to be affected by the change is the department’s 6,800 Detectives, who can be reassigned from their usual posts at the Commissioner’s discretion. The ESU and other specialized units are largely made up of Detectives, and many Detectives from investigative squads have been placed in uniform to carry out security functions under Operation Atlas.

Detectives’ Endowment Association President Thomas J. Scotto said he was mindful of problems with fatigue, but he doubted his members would welcome the change to six-day weeks. “The general feeling is, once you’re here, you’d rather do the overtime today than come back tomorrow,” he said.

The city’s 24,000 Police Officers may be taken out of precincts in greater numbers to participate in Operation Atlas on a day-to-day basis, police officials said, so that a greater share of the security activities can be paid as regular time instead of overtime.

Under the city’s contract with the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, however, reassigned officers must be paid overtime for the day if their usual work schedule is changed more than 10 times in one year. Both Police Officers and Detectives will get overtime for working more than five days a week.

According to PBA President Patrick J. Lynch, the economic root of the new strategy goes beyond the NYPD’s spiraling overtime budget.

“What’s happening now is, there’s not enough police officers in total to handle the work,” Mr. Lynch said. “And the reason they’re running into problems is that officers are leaving, because they’re not paying a living wage.”