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Langley police adopt shift change amid declining ranks

LANGLEY — The city's police force will be working longer shifts, but fewer days, to make up for its thinned ranks.

Langley Police Chief Randy Heston said Wednesday the schedule for officers has been changed to "4-10s"; the setup for four 10-hour workdays, with three days off.

Heston told the city council at a special workshop this week about the new arrangement, one that could spell the end to some of the worst workweeks the city's police have seen in past months.

With the city's police force down to a three-man team, one officer recently worked a 21-day stretch without a day off.

There is a hitch to the new plan, however. The revised schedule leaves two shifts open each week - on Tuesday and Sunday - and Heston has had to look to deputy sheriffs from Island County to fill in as reserve officers.

A reserve officer has already been scheduled to work Tuesday nights, Heston said, but that won't last because of regular changes at the sheriff's office.

"Their schedule changes every 90 days, so we may have to renegotiate that," Heston said.

Vacant spots still remain for the other shift, on Sunday evening, in the schedule. Only three shifts in the next few months have been filled.

Heston said scheduling is also tight for sheriff's deputies, so the city may have to pay overtime to its own officers to cover the unfilled shifts.

"There are going to be times when I just can't fill the schedule and one of us is going to have to work an overtime shift," he said.

Another issue is competition from Coupeville for the use of county deputies to fill in; Coupeville has raised its compensation for reserve officers and pays nearly $7 per hour more than Langley.

"I can't compete with them," Heston said.

That led some city officials to wonder if Langley should offer higher pay to its reserves.

Langley still must decide what to pay officers already serving the city - which was the topic for a private executive session late Wednesday between the council and mayor on negotiations with the newly formed police union. A proposed contract is expected to be brought before the council for approval later this year.

Regardless, the scheduling change was most welcome, Langley leaders said.

"When I first discovered that we have officers working 21 days in a row, it was unthinkable to me that we would have that," said Mayor Larry Kwarsick.

"I think the 10-hour shifts gives people … a lot more flexibility for a personal life," Kwarsick said.

City officials will continue to monitor the budget impacts of overtime in the police department in the coming months. Langley has operated with three officers since the retirement of former police chief Bob Herzberg last March.

"At the end of the day, I hope we can balance the reserve officer demands against the overtime," Kwarsick said.

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