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St. Louis County Police will work 12-hour shifts — here’s why

The St. Louis County Police’s current third precinct will be vacated for a new construction on Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2022, in unincorporated south St. Louis County.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Starting Christmas Day, the more than 500 patrol officers of the St. Louis County Police, including those working in the 3rd Precinct in south St. Louis County, will work 12-hour shifts.

Starting Christmas Day, work schedules for the men and women of the St. Louis County Police Department will look much different.

Right now, the department’s more than 500 patrol officers work 10 hours at a time. Starting at 6 a.m. on Dec. 25, they will move to 12-hour shifts. The change was a recommendation from the Teneo Group, a consulting firm that reviewed the department in 2020.

While the 12-hour shifts mean a longer working day for officers, they get more time off in exchange, including every other weekend, said Capt. Brian Schellman, the commander of the department’s Bureau of Research.

It’s also easier for the department to staff.

“You're filling two shifts, rather than filling three shifts, because obviously 10 doesn't go into 24 evenly,” Schellman said. “So it takes less bodies in the Division of Patrol to pull off the 12-hour shifts.”

The department piloted the 12-hour shifts in the West County and North County precincts, which are its quietest and busiest precincts, respectively, Schellman said. While the vast majority of officers in West County enjoyed the change, it was about a 50/50 split in North County.

“However, when we look at the comments of those who did not like the 12-hour shifts, about 89% said, ‘If this is done right, then we would love the 12-hour shifts,’” Schellman said. “In the 1st Precinct, they need more manpower, and the chief has addressed that.”

The current contract between the department and its patrol officers included the possibility of 12-hour shifts, so the change did not catch anyone off guard, said Joe Patterson, the executive director of the St. Louis County Police Association.

He said it will be up to commanders to ensure that officers end their shifts as close to on-time as possible.

“If an officer catches a report with 15 minutes left in a shift, he’s got to stay and finish that report, or he may have to book somebody into jail. Now we’re talking about a 12-hour day being a 16- or 18-hour day,” Patterson said. “So that just becomes dangerous because you’ve got to think, he’s gotta be back to work in six to eight hours.”

Correction: The West County and North County precincts were the pilot locations for 12-hour shifts. A previous St. Louis Public Radio report listed the wrong precincts.

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.