Trending Topics

5 staffing solutions to save police leaders time and money

Even if your department uses a set rotation that repeats every X days, there are always exceptions that have to be factored in for vacations, training, sick time, and other minutiae of working life

One of the more dreary duties of any police supervisor is making up the work schedule. Even if your department uses a set rotation that repeats every X days, there are always exceptions that have to be factored in for vacations, training, sick time, and other minutiae of working life.

This task is usually easier if you can get a computer to do some of the work for you. Here are a handful of options available for your consideration.

DIY with Microsoft Excel
There are commercial software packages available (we’ll examine them next), but you may be able to utilize a free solution if your scheduling needs aren’t too complex. Users of Microsoft Excel (if you use Microsoft Office applications, you probably are), have many downloadable Excel templates that are pre-formatted for work schedules, requiring only that you key in the details.

Templates are shells for information that need to be presented in an organized, consistent way, similar to a paper form. The Excel templates have color-coding, calculations, formulas, and the like already coded in. You open the template in Excel, save it as a regular workbook with a unique name (like XPD-patrol-Mar-2015.xlsx), and key in the particulars.

You can also input repetitive information into the template itself — like the names of squad members — that doesn’t change from one schedule to the next, and save re-keying it each time you make a new edition.

A Google search for “Excel work schedule templates,” will net you some suitable scheduling templates, or use the template search function in Excel itself. The results of that one will be limited to templates from Microsoft.

If you don’t want to use Excel or have needs that go past what you can do in Excel, there are several commercial software products specially designed for public safety.

Ops Force Deploy
Ops Force Deploy from Corona Solutions excels in optimizing your schedules for the best balance of staffing, cost, and regulation of excess expenses, like overtime. Tell the software how many beats or other positions you have to staff over a time period, and it will tell you how many people you will need to do that. Deploy will also suggest the optimal work schedule (12 hour shifts, 5-8s, 4-10s, etc.), although any changes will probably involve a conference between management and labor.

Deploy is also a great tool if you find yourself repeatedly defending your staffing needs and costs to the people who hold the purse strings. You can show the local honchos exactly the amount and quality of service you can deliver with X officers, and the effect of adding or eliminating staff positions.

Telestaff from Kronos is a popular choice for medium-to-large agencies with complex staffing schedules. Besides staffing, TeleStaff can track certifications, when they will expire, and see that the minimum number of certified personnel are available for each shift.

For example, say that your agency requires two EMT-qualified officers and one tactical officer to be available at all times. TeleStaff will let you know when those positions aren’t being filled, and will flag personnel when their certifications are up for renewal. This way, you can schedule update training while you still have some time to make it happen.

Schedules are accessible by telephone or on PCs, smartphones, and tablets. Employees can make changes in their work schedules to the extent their security settings allow them. They can request extra time off or call in sick without actually speaking to a supervisor, or the call can be routed directly to a supervisor in charge.

When emergencies take place or an open shift has to be backfilled, the system will call eligible personnel according to whatever strategy you choose. You can choose to call people according to seniority, hours off since their last shift, or in a round-robin that tries everyone before someone gets a second call. Many notifications are completed without human intervention, as the employee just has to key in the appropriate response for “not today,” or “I’m on my way.”

Police Officer Scheduling System from VCS Software has features similar to Telestaff, but is designed specifically for law enforcement. Schedule changes and emergency callouts are automated, with human intervention required to approve a change if the user sets up the system to do that. POSS tracks licenses and certifications to ensure they don’t expire unexpectedly, and sees to it that the minimum number of certified personnel are available at all times.

Users access POSS over the web or via smartphone or tablet. Scheduling of court appearances, extra duty/second jobs, and split shifts (like those of crossing guards) are all provided for.

PlanIt Police
PlanIt Police by RagnaSoft has fewer features than some of the other packages, but it’s also simpler to master. Scheduling is done via a graphic drag-and-drop interface, or through entering data into an onscreen form.

PlanIt also tracks certifications, and notifies employees of changes or alerts by email, telephone, or text message. Supervisors can send the same email, text, or voice message to everyone or any subset of employees with a single action. With “voice blasts,” employees can key in their response with their touch-tone pads, and the supervisor will see the responses in real time on his console.

If an employee wants to trade shifts with someone else, he can post the trade request for any takers, or arrange a trade with another employee and submit the trade for supervisor approval, all within the automated system. There are “walls” (message boards) visible and editable by any subset of users, so messages can be seen by everyone, just the members of a squad, or only supervisors. These are useful for everything from announcing next month’s department picnic to letting all the sergeants know that Officer Bixley has been late four times this month.

Choose your scheduling solution carefully. Any software can be ‘spendy’ and once everyone has been using one platform, it’s difficult to switch to another. Some may communicate directly with your payroll system, where others won’t. In the end, you should be saving time and aggravation, and hearing fewer complaints over staffing problems.

Tim Dees is a writer, editor, trainer and former law enforcement officer. After 15 years as a police officer with the Reno Police Department and elsewhere in northern Nevada, Tim taught criminal justice as a full-time professor and instructor at colleges in Wisconsin, West Virginia, Georgia and Oregon. He was also a regional training coordinator for the Oregon Dept. of Public Safety Standards & Training, providing in-service training to 65 criminal justice agencies in central and eastern Oregon.