The Pinal County Sheriff's Office is switching to a four-day workweek for all of its employees to offset the high cost of gasoline.
Sheriff Chris Vasquez announced the change last week, and the new schedule will be phased into every department during the next few weeks. Officials stressed public safety won't be affected as the sheriff's office already uses a four-day workweek for much of its patrol staff.
So far, the new schedule has been well-received as some employees have commutes of more than 60 miles into Florence, sheriff's spokeswoman Vanessa White said.
A four-day workweek is common in law enforcement, and every police department in the East Valley uses the schedule for its officers and most employees, including the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.
The schedule is used because of the cost benefits associated with working longer days fewer times a week. The four-day schedule helps cut overtime and improve productivity, as many shifts often require hours of writing reports and performing other tasks.
"An eight-hour shift is going to turn into a 10-hour shift a lot of the time because of the stuff you run across and have to take care of at the end of the day," Chandler police Detective Dave Ramer said.
Police officials in other departments also said removing a workday also cuts the number of breaks and lunches a department has to pay.
A reduction in overtime and other costs would bring relief for the sheriff's office, which paid out more than $1.5 million in overtime during the 2007-08 budget year. And the sheriff's office had to trim its budget this year in the midst of the county's $13 million deficit.
The sheriff's office and other police departments also believe that longer shifts improve productivity and public safety.
The 10-hour shifts help because there's more overlapping of squads and a greater presence on the roads, White said.