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One year in, 12-hour shifts are popular with St. Louis County police officers

A St. Louis County Police squad car sits outside the third precinct on Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2022, in unincorporated south St. Louis County.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis County police officers switched to 12-hour shifts on Christmas Day 2022. Surveys have found that the longer days are popular with officers, and they are here to stay.

On Christmas Day in 2022, patrol officers in the St. Louis County Police Department began working 12-hour shifts. Now, a year into the schedule, surveys found 70% of those officers like the change.

The department went to the 12-hour days because they require fewer officers to be fully staffed across all shifts. In exchange for working more hours at one time, officers get more frequent and predictable days off.

The Division of Patrol, the department’s largest, is currently short by about 90 officers, making it more difficult to schedule those days off and remain at full staffing. So far, officers are not being required to work mandatory overtime or on their scheduled days off.

But that shortage of patrol officers is having impacts in other ways.

“We have to remove people from specialized units and then put them out to the street because our main priority is to fill these beats out on the street for the community,” said Sgt. John Conrardy. He’s assigned to the Patrol Ancillary Services unit, which provides logistical and administrative support for the Patrol Division.

Removing those detectives, however, increases caseloads for those who remain, said Joe Patterson, executive director of the St. Louis County Police Association.

“And then at the same time, the police officers on the street are now having to follow up and handle investigations that they would normally have been able to assign to a detective on top of all the hours they are working as it is,” he said. “We're getting it from all four sides here, and the stress and the pressure is starting to show some cracks.”

Conrardy said the department has tried a number of measures to boost recruitment, including allowing people who have worked at other departments to count that experience when it comes to pay.

Despite the complications, surveys show the 12-hour shifts are popular, Conrardy said. And though Lt. Col. Juan Cox, the commander of the Division of Patrol, has said he doesn’t like the longer shifts, they are in place permanently.

“He realizes that we have to provide services for the community,” Conrardy said. “We're not going to put the community at risk or our officers at risk by being short staffed.”

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