Can working less lead to happier, healthier and better cops?

Can fewer hours on the job lead to better policing and healthier, happier law enforcement officers?

A police department in the Denver suburbs is trying to answer that question with its switch last year to a 32-hour workweek for every member of the force. And the results so far have law enforcement leaders across the country taking notice.

“I’ve had to create an email template to respond to all the chiefs that have reached out asking me how we’re doing this,” Golden (Colorado) Police Chief Joe Harvey told us this week.

The department, which serves a town of about 20,000 in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, launched the 32-hour workweek in July as part of citywide effort to build a culture of employee wellness, Harvey said.

Six months later, the results have been overwhelmingly positive, according to a city report measuring dozens of metrics. Response times are down. Overtime costs fell nearly 80%. More than 90% of department employees are happy with the change. And fewer officers are leaving the force — saving the department hundreds of thousands in hiring and training costs.

“All the information we have indicates we are performing at the same or at a greater level,” Harvey said.

While the change means officers are working less, Harvey believes it allows them to be more focused and engaged when on duty, and healthier when off. He cited examples of officers who had been taking medicine for high blood pressure but have been able to reduce or entirely eliminate it since the switch to a 32-hour week.

“They’re happier to be here. They’re excited to work,” he said. “And that means they’re going to do it at a higher level.”

Harvey believes the change also makes his department more attractive to new recruits at a time when law enforcement agencies across the country are struggling to fill the ranks.

“We have to start looking at this through a different window, because the newer generation doesn’t live to work, they work to live,” he said. “They work hard when they’re at work, but they won’t want to do it all the time.”

So how do you cut police department employees’ workweek by 20% without sacrificing public safety or hiring more people? It turns out it was pretty simple, at least in Golden. Prior to the change, employees worked four, 10-hour shifts a week — meaning every shift had a two-hour overlap. The department eliminated that overlap.

Golden Colorado Police Chief Joe Harvey Courtesy of Golden, Colorado

It’s also meant working more efficiently — shorter meetings, less downtime — and employees willing to be flexible with their time, Harvey said.

Could it work here?

Despite the promising results in Golden, police officers in our suburbs might want to hold off before making plans for eight more hours of free time a week.

We reached out to some law enforcement leaders in Illinois to see what they thought of Golden’s experiment. Their response? Intriguing, but probably not for everyone.

“It’s an interesting concept, but I’m not sure it would work for us without hiring additional people,” said Lake Zurich Police Chief Steve Husak, whose department, like most in the suburbs, faces staffing shortfalls. “But I applaud them for thinking outside the box and giving it a try.”

Kenny Winslow, executive director of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, said he’s not aware of any departments in Illinois considering a 32-hour workweek.

“I would have a lot of questions about it,” said Winslow, who served nine years as chief of the Springfield Police Department. “With fatigue and stress, and the risk of the job, it would be nice to give officers more time off. But at the same time, the taxpayers expect a certain level of service.”

Rest easy, Bane

It was a somber scene Wednesday outside a Northbrook animal hospital, as police officers from Prospect Heights gathered to say goodbye to one of their own.

Police dog Bane, who faithfully served the community from 2015 until his retirement in 2020, “crossed the rainbow bridge” after being diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer that was quickly spreading through his body, according to police.

Prospect Heights police dog Bane with then-partner officer Alan Thibeault Courtesy of Prospect Heights Police Department

In tribute to Bane and his service, police officers lined up outside Preiser Animal Hospital and saluted him as he was led inside by his family. A video of the Honor Walk ceremony, as well as a video tribute to Bane’s service, can be seen on the department’s Facebook page,

Some of Bane’s career highlights included successfully tracking a homicide suspect, apprehending two suspects who fled from a stolen vehicle, and the seizure of several pounds of illegal drugs and related currency.

Bane was partnered with officer Alan Thibeault, who now serves in neighboring Mount Prospect.

Prospect Heights police dog Bane is seen with his old partner, Officer Alan Thibeault. Courtesy of the Prospect Heights Police Department

“K9 Bane was a welcomed presence and he will be greatly missed,” police wrote on Facebook. “Our thoughts and prayers are with K9 Bane and his family. Rest Easy Bane.”

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