Bryan Vila
Bryan Vila

Without enough officers to respond to 911 calls and patrol streets, Oakland, Calif., has required police to work extra patrol shifts for the past 18 months—a duration that law enforcement experts say appears unprecedented and could threaten public safety.

The mandatory overtime requirement began in October 2012 and isn’t scheduled to end until next March when the department anticipates finally having enough officers to adequately staff the patrol division.

But mandatory overtime is typically reserved for disasters or short-term operations, said Bryan Vila, a WSU professor of criminal justice and criminology and former Los Angeles sheriff’s deputy who authored the book Tired Cops: The Importance of Managing Police Fatigue.

“I’ve never heard of mandatory overtime being used for longer than a year or so and even that is very long,” Vila said.

Too much overtime, especially in Oakland where police face the highest volume of 911 calls in the state, could leave officers fatigued, over-stressed and mistake prone, Vila said. “Your risk of critical incidents and vehicle crashes goes up,” he said. “Those cost a lot of money and so do the civil suits every time a police officer makes a mistake that is avoidable.”

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