Officers Versus Police Chief on Scheduling

The current schedule was put in place at the beginning of 2017 as a one-year experiment

About 40 officers of the East Hampton Town Police Department are at loggerheads with Chief Michael D. Sarlo this week after refusing to accept scheduling changes he had proposed. 

Meeting on Tuesday night at Ashawagh Hall in Springs, almost exactly a year after current scheduling was adopted, they voted overwhelmingly to reject his proposal. The force currently is divided into four squads, which work 12-hour shifts, with two squads working solely at night while the other two handle day shifts.  

Chief Sarlo had asked that, going into 2018, officers continue to work 12-hour shifts but rotate from day-to-night shifts and night-to-day shifts every four months. He would not comment this week, saying it was a matter of ongoing negotiation. 

The current schedule was put in place at the beginning of 2017 as a one-year experiment. The force previously had been divided into five squads, with officers rotating between three eight-hour shifts — 3 to 11 p.m., 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. This system had been extremely unpopular. 

“We finally have a schedule that gives officers steady tours and is much healthier on the body,” Anthony Bosco, president of the town’s Police Benevolent Association, said. “I took a look at sick time, and apparently it is down almost 30 percent from last year’s numbers.”  

 Mr. Bosco noted that while the number of police department responses to calls inched up only slightly over 2016, the number of arrests had increased 16 percent. As of Christmas Day, there were 975 arrests as compared to 840 in 2016. 

In addition, Mr. Bosco said, more than 300 tickets were written for speeding, a 33-percent rise. He further pointed out that at the same time overtime pay was down by about $120,000, a huge saving for taxpayers. 

“That being said, the P.B.A. has not requested anything in return, just to keep the schedule as is. This basically negates the purpose of going to the schedule. In polling my membership, no officers would want this,” he said. 

According to Mr. Bosco, one problem with the current schedule is that new members of the force experience only daytime or nighttime responsibilities throughout the year although what occurs during the day can be quite different than at night. 

The P.B.A. has agreed, however, to allow the chief to set up day and night shifts for the first few years an officer is on the force, he said, but the department, which is supervised by the town board, countered by offering to keep the current schedule through the first four months of 2018, switching to the chief’s plan for the rest of the year.

Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell, however, was reluctant that the town get involved. “The four-month extension would have given them an opportunity to continue discussion toward a permanent change in the schedule,” he said yesterday.

The P.B.A. position was strengthened by being an either-or proposition: Either the town would extend the current schedule for another year or the department would revert to the previous and unpopular rotation. If the latter were to occur, the department would be facing a morale as well as a logistical problem, according to Mr. Bosco. The rotational schedule, which would divide the department back into five small squads, would have to be in place by Monday.