ALBION — When the LaGrange County Sheriff’s Department went to 12-hour shifts for road deputies six or seven years ago, Cpl. Cliff Hibbs and Deputy Ed Flowers were two of the hard sells on the idea.
“I wasn’t really excited about it when we first went into it,” Hibbs said.
But when Noble County Sheriff Max Weber wanted officers to talk about the shift as he contemplated the same move, Hibbs and Flowers were the two officers who came down to talk up the idea.
The Noble County Sheriff’s Department began working its deputies in 12-hour shifts Friday.
Instead of having two officers expected to cover all of the unincorporated areas in Noble County, now there will be at least three.
“That’s the goal — to get more officers on the road,” Weber said.
For the officers, it’s a chance at more time away from the job.
Noble County deputies had been working a rotation that saw them working four days, then having two days off. Only once every six weeks, according to Chief Deputy Brian Walker, would an officer be off both a Saturday and Sunday consecutively.
Under the new schedule, deputies will have a three-day weekend — off Friday, Saturday and Sunday — every other week.
Albion Chief Deputy Marshal Trince Hursey has been on a 12-hour shift since Jan. 28, 2018. The big positive to the schedule, at least from his perspective, is the chance to spend more time at home with his family.
Hursey gets his 80 hours in every two weeks, he just works in longer chunks — and has longer chunks off.
He said there are pros and cons to the move.
“It’s a long day,” he said. “If you had a day where you’ve run from call to call and it’s 90 degrees, by hour 12 you are spent. Most days, in general, it’s not too bad.”
Hibbs, who once balked at the idea, is now all for it. He also cited family time as being the biggest benefit.
“It’s kind of personal for me,” he said.
Hibbs’ wife also works 12-hour shifts.
“It worked out great for us,” he said.
Hibbs said the days don’t seem to drag — even at 12 hours.
“Time literally flies by,” Hibbs said.
Weber and Walker said they want officers to use the longer shifts to put a larger emphasis on community policing. In an eight-hour shift, deputies frequently run from call to call, Weber said. But adding another four hours adds time for other things, like stopping in schools, day care facilities and coffee shops to interact with the citizens they serve.
“We want them to go out and meet their community,” Walker said. “The community has valuable information, we just have to take time to get it.”
Weber said when the officers are feeling fatigued at the end of their shifts, that’s when he recommends they get off the road and do paperwork generated by the day’s activity.
Hibbs and Weber said the shifts have to work together. If there is a call that comes in just before one shift ends and isn’t urgent, it should be held over to the next shift so an officer doesn’t have to work over.
Hibbs said LaGrange County deputies work together to make sure to get the officers they are replacing home as quickly as possible.
“It has to be teamwork,” Hibbs said.
Because sometimes paperwork has to be filed before they can go home, officers routinely stay beyond their eight hours anyway.
“It was not unusual to put in 10 or 11 hours on your normal shift,” Hibbs said.
He recommended Noble County deputies make sure sleep is a priority, particularly during the off time between their first and second days.
“Give it a couple of pay cycles,” Hibbs said. “I think (Noble County’s officers) will like it. I don’t think anybody (on the LaGrange County Sheriff’s Department) would want to go back to an 8-hour shift.”
“When you weigh it out,” Hursey said, “it’s more positives than negatives.”