Oak Park patrol officers and sergeants are reacting to a decision by Police Chief Rick Tanksley to return to an eight-hour duty day that requires them to work six days on, two days off.
Some are suggesting the move is in retaliation for resistance from patrol officers to practices by top management that the officers consider harsh. Police brass say the decision was based solely on officer and citizen safety.
The 12-hour days patrol officers currently work were approved in a “memo of understanding” (MOU) between the village and the patrol officers’ fraternal lodge in 2013. That memo expires on Dec. 31.
Starting the first week of January, the Patrol Division will revert to what are known as “six and twos,” under which officers and sergeants work six consecutive eight-hour days followed by two days off. What particularly rankles rank-and-file cops, sources say, is that the new schedules will be rotated every 28 days from days to evenings to midnights.
Tanksley informed all police personnel of the scheduling change in a memo on Friday. Noting the Dec. 31 expiration date, he wrote, “The village has decided not to enter into a subsequent agreement.”
Union leaders for both patrol officers and sergeants criticized the decision as a step backward. Other sources, who asked not to be identified, said many officers are also unhappy about the short notice of the changes.
Sgt. Thomas Dransoff, president of the department’s Sergeants Association said a formal written grievance has been filed. Dransoff said the village was contractually required to set the 2016 duty rosters for sergeants prior to Nov. 1.
“We don’t know where it’s coming from,” said Dransoff. “It’s really frustrating because all we really ask for is to maintain this agreement, to uphold the process, and that clearly has not been done here.”
Michael Rallidis, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #8 which represents Oak Park patrol officers, called the two days following the release of Tanksley’s memo “a heck of a weekend,” one filled with numerous texts from upset rank-and-file cops.
While the village’s contract with the patrol officers union has no provision like in the sergeants’ contract, Rallidis said the move was still a bad one.
“We feel that’s a regression to an archaic practice that really doesn’t have any application to a modern police department,” he said. “We were beyond this.”
While the memo indicates the decision was made “by the village,” Rallidis said Tanksley stated during a recent labor/management meeting that he was responsible for the decision.
Dransoff noted that in the past, day and afternoon shifts were rotated, while officers were allowed to bid for permanent midnight shifts, easing the stress of dealing with constant time shifts.
“It gave officers a choice,” Dransoff said, “for those who needed or preferred some kind of continuity.”
“They always filled the midnight shift. It was rare that there were more than two or three [junior officers] who were forced to work midnights.”
Rallidis said the village has been involved in a study by the Center for Public Safety at Northwestern University, which has been surveying Oak Park officers the past year.
“We haven’t seen a report on that and why they’d want to move away from (12-hour shifts),” Rallidis said.
Deputy Chief of Patrol Frank Limon said Monday afternoon that the Northwestern study, which he characterized as “ongoing,” was just one of several reasons why Tanksley opted not to renew the village’s agreement on 12-hour shifts.
“We always knew that the MOU was a pilot program. It was always being evaluated,” Limon said. “We understand the 12-hour shift allows officers to spend more time with their families.
“The main reason we made the change was for officer safety,” he said.
Limon said the Northwestern study found that officers working 12 hours were fatigued, and that fatigue, he said, “really increases during the final hours” of the shift, which affects officers’ decision-making ability.
He said Tanksley’s decision was also based on two other scientific studies, the 2011 Police Foundation’s “Shift Experiment: What We Know About 8, 10 and 12-hour shifts,” and the 2015 report from “The President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing,” which was issued in the wake of the racial unrest in Ferguson, Missouri.
Asked if the village is going to address officer concerns, Limon said he couldn’t speak for Tanksley, but possible scheduling changes have been discussed several times in the past with union leaders. Another meeting is scheduled this Wednesday at the unions’ request.
“When we tell our officers, ‘Be safe out there,’ we really mean it,” Limon added. “It has nothing to do with anything else.”