Results from a new study conducted by researchers at Washington State University and Central Queensland University suggest that complaints against U.S. police officers increase when they work consecutive night shifts. The odds of citizen complaints increase even more when night shift officers are required to make daytime court appearances in-between night shifts when they would otherwise be resting up for their next shift.
Results from the study indicate that citizen complaints were most prevalent on night shifts. The researchers also found that going to court during the day between night shifts further increased the odds of citizen complaints. This supports the idea that sleep restriction and fatigue, which increase when night shift officers must attend court, contribute to the likelihood that they will receive complaints from the public.
“Our results suggest that consecutive night shifts, particularly when worked with daytime court hours, increase fatigue, limit sleep, and increase the odds of citizen complaints against police officers,” said lead author Samantha Riedy, MS, RPSGT, a doctoral student in the Experimental Psychology Graduate Program and the Sleep and Performance Research Center at Washington State University. “Citizen complaints are an important indicator of citizen dissatisfaction with how they are treated by officers, their perceptions about justice, and their willingness to cooperate with the police and help maintain public order. Our findings indicate that duty schedules and sleep opportunities need to be considered when scheduling officers in court.”
The study included data from 379 officers and 32,712 work shifts from a seminal study led by Bryan Vila, former professor of criminal justice and criminology, that examined whether fatigue was prevalent in policing (Vila et al., 2000).