New Contract Switches St. Lawrence County sheriff’s Deputies to 12-Hour Shifts

Members of the St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department road patrol have agreed to work 12-hour shifts under a new three-year contract that also provides slight pay increases.

The three-year pact also requires deputies to make larger contributions toward their health insurance and prescription co-pays.

The new contract was approved by both the St. Lawrence County Legislature and the St. Lawrence County Deputies Association Inc. It replaces a former five-year contract that expired Dec. 31, 2014.

Deputy Sean P. O’Brien, president of the 23-member deputies union, said switching from eight-hour to 12-hour workshifts was supported by the deputies and should also help the county reduce its overtime expenses. Instead of three daily shifts, the department will run with two.

“It’s more efficient and provides a more consistent schedule,” Mr. O’Brien said.

Instead of working 80 hours every two weeks, deputies will work 84 hours, but will be paid at their regular pay rate, rather than overtime rate, for the additional four hours, Mr. O’Brien said.

Deputies also supported the 12-hour shifts because it will allow them to have a three-day weekend every other week, he said.

Under the former schedule, during every 16-week rotation, deputies received five two-day weekends off. They will now have eight three-day weekends over that 16-week period.

The contract is retroactive to 2015 and runs through Dec. 31, 2017.

It also provides a $500 lump sum payment for 2015, a 0.5 percent salary increase this month, followed by a 1 percent increase in July. In 2017, the union members will receive a 1 percent increase in January and another 1 percent in July.

Deputies are paid between $40,000 and $56,000 a year, depending on their time with the department, Mr. O’Brien said.

Union members will also be required to increase their contribution toward individual health insurance and prescription co-pays.

“It certainly isn’t the best contract, but it’s not the worst,” Mr. O’Brien said. “I think it’s a very fair contract given the fiscal situation of the county.”

Legislature Chairman John H. Burke, R-Norfolk, said he felt the county’s negotiation team reached a fair settlement for both sides and he’s hopeful the 12-hour shifts help reduce overtime expenses for the sheriff’s department.

“We’ll have to wait and see how that materializes,” Mr. Burke said. “I think our negotiation team reached a fair settlement. I think our deputies benefit and I think the county benefits.”

In Jefferson County, the Watertown Police Department converted to 12-hour shifts in July after the City Council approved a three-year contract.

Because the shifts are still fairly new, Capt. Michael J. LaBarge said it’s too early to tell how the shift change affects overtime. Additionally, Capt. LaBarge said staff levels had dropped in 2014, and 2015 was spent returning to full strength. With that in mind, he said the department is likely on par with its overtime allotment in the 2015-16 budget.

So far, he said the feedback from officers regarding the new shifts has been positive.

“Everything seems to be flowing nicely so far, and I hope it continues,” he said.

He added that the shifts only affect road patrol officers.

Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office deputies have been on 12-hour shifts for years, however.

Undersheriff Brian McDermott said the shifts were in place long before he took his job with the department, so it would take going back several years to compare overtime usage data.

Through experience with other law enforcement departments in the state, Mr. McDermott said the 12-hour shifts, for the most part, bring balance to overtime use.

“Just from my experience, it’s not a big overtime saver, but it doesn’t appear to be something that needs a lot of overtime either,” he said.

Mr. McDermott said the shifts bring flexibility to deputies’ schedules, and they are able to have extended weekends or days off in the middle of the week.

Times Staff Writer Brian Molongoski contributed to this report.

Created: Jan 9th, 2016 at 7:21 am