The Chief
September 21, 2007

Extended Tours on PBA Agenda for Arbitration

By REUVEN BLAU

With arbitration hearings for the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association finally scheduled, the union plans to cite the local law-enforcement trend to move to longer tours as a way for management to cut overtime costs and sick-leave absences and increase officer morale.

PATRICK J. LYNCH: Tour change a priority.
PATRICK J. LYNCH: Tour change a priority.

Several other local police agencies including the New York State Police and Nassau County Police Department have already moved to 10- or 12-hour tours, which enable the officers to make fewer appearances each year.

LBA Pilot Program Key

More recently and significantly, in July 2006 the Lieutenants Benevolent Association negotiated a pilot voluntary 12-hour tour for platoon commanders in eight specified precincts, which is set to begin shortly. The longer tours are expected to enable Lieutenants to make at least 60 fewer appearances each year.

The PBA and several supervisory police unions have been seeking to negotiate lengthened tours for years, but to this point only Lieutenants have been granted that right.

TONY GARVEY: Must try it to know.
TONY GARVEY: Must try it to know.

Once it is launched, the LBA pilot program will be carefully monitored. "We were just prepared to take a look at it," said Labor Commissioner James F. Hanley during a Sept. 12 phone interview. "If it doesn't work, we will be able to cancel it at any given time."

Former LBA President Anthony Garvey said that Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly was the "driving force" behind the program. "I think Kelly's a progressive Police Commissioner," he remarked during a phone interview from his new office as head of the Police Pension Fund. "Is it good for the department? Is it good for the city? Is it good for the officers? Nobody has those answers."

Downplays PERB Ruling

The issue surfaced again after the Public Employment Relations Board ruled earlier this month that the length of police tours is a mandatory subject of bargaining. That decision reversed an Administrative Law Judge's earlier finding that extending officers' tours beyond eight hours is a prohibited topic and violates state law.

DANIEL DeFEDERICIS: Longer tours a blessing.
DANIEL DeFEDERICIS: Longer tours a blessing.

Commissioner Hanley, however, downplayed the significance of the PERB ruling. "This decision is nothing new under the sun," he asserted. "It's just consistent with the way we've been bargaining our charts."

The PBA hailed the PERB finding, but declined to comment last week on the arbitration hearings, which are scheduled to begin in November.

Presently, NYPD cops work eight-hour and 35-minute tours and must be scheduled to make 243 appearances to reach the mandated 2,088 hours of scheduled work each year. The PBA is expected to seek to negotiate either 10- or 12-hour tours, which if agreed to would reduce the number of appearances its members are scheduled to make each year. (The actual number of days worked is reduced by allotted vacation days.) As an example, if tours were extended to 10 hours, officers would only have to be scheduled for 209 appearances.

Arguments in Favor

Michael Axelrod, an attorney who represents the State Trooper and Nassau police unions, said that it's a "progressive" industry trend to lengthen the work day, resulting in fewer tours annually. "It provides balanced scheduling and a reduction in overtime, and better coverage," he remarked. "Every jurisdiction that has switched to it has maintained it."

JAMES F. HANLEY: May not translate here.
JAMES F. HANLEY: May not translate here.

The State Troopers began with a pilot program for two Troopers in 1999, and eventually the schedule was expanded to the rest of the state, according to the NYS State Troopers Police Benevolent Association.

"The overwhelming majority of PBA members who work 12-hour shifts are pleased with the program," said Daniel M. De Federicis in a statement. "The 12-hour shifts provide many benefits including stability in Troopers' schedules, which leads to a better quality-of-life at both work and home, and ultimately, greater morale."

Under the lengthened tours, Troopers are better able to plan activities with their families since their days off are consistent and can be charted months in advance, he added.

Mr. Hanley and others, however, were quick to point out that the NYPD is different than smaller police forces in the area. "The City of New York has many unique characteristics that certainly may not exist in Horseheads, New York or other sites," he said.

Mr. Garvey also acknowledged those differences. "It's a true metropolitan type of policing that may not exist in the suburbs," he observed. "The only way you find out is by putting in place a program and then making your assessments - that's the logical progression."

Kelly's Stance?

It is unclear whether Commissioner Kelly would support a pilot program to extend Police Officer tours as well.

Several sources last week speculated that he will likely want to see the results of the LBA's program before expanding it to other ranks. "Because it may be a disaster," one insider said.

The delay in launching the LBA program has been in part due to complications in setting up Harvard Medical School's role in analyzing officer-fatigue data, according to city and union officials.

The LBA had been seeking to establish extended tours for years but could not agree with the city on the ground rules of the program until last summer. Under the current plan, after six months, factors such as fatigue, use of leave, effect on overtime costs and supervision will be evaluated by the NYPD and a labor-management committee.

'Viable Program'

"On the surface, it appears that it will be a viable program," Mr. Garvey predicted. "But until the studies are in, I don't think any of us will know." Notably, the plan to extend tours for State Troopers was included as part of an interest arbitration award issued in 2001. "Reluctantly we went to the 12-hour day, because we had a lot of unknowns," recalled Michael N. Volforte, the General Counsel for the Governor's Office of Employee Relations.

The state was concerned that longer tours would impair Troopers' abilities to quickly respond to emergencies and would make them more susceptible to injuries, he said. "It was implemented in such a way that it was manageable," he added. "There were a number of aspects in implementing it that we had in terms of flexibility."

Currently, only Troopers work 12-hour shifts; Sergeants and those in higher State Police ranks have remained on eight-hour workdays. Sources indicated that politics have stalled expanding the program to the state's entire force.

Compatibility Factor

That may also be a factor in whether or not an arbitration panel agrees to award the PBA a similar pilot program. The PBA and Mr. Hanley have frequently been at odds. In contrast, Mr. Garvey has a close relationship with the Labor Commissioner, which many cited as a key reason why the union was finally able to persuade the Bloomberg administration to agree to a pilot program.

Eugene O'Donnell, a Professor of Law and Police Studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said that it was important that any benefits given to Police Officers by the arbitration panel be free of concessions.

"Every time they give them an advantage, there is some form of disadvantage," he said, referring to the reduction in starting pay for new officers, which the city used to finance additional raises for incumbent cops. "The bottom line is, if you want to the best force, you should make it a good job all the way across the board. It should be a law-enforcement job without comparison in the United States. It's the most responsible police job in the nation."