Officer, do you need a nap? Police overtime questioned

Jun 12, 2012

Is a community at risk when cops don’t get enough sleep? Washington State University researcher Bryan Vila says it is. In a briefing before the King County Council, he said there are hazards associated with overworked officers.

He says lack of sleep affects your ability to think clearly and problem solve and do other things law enforcement needs to be skilled at, such as:

“Making difficult moral choices, using technology, dealing with people, dealing with stress, controlling emotions.”

Vila says a tired cop might see a threat where there isn’t one.

Time for power nap?

He makes some intriguing suggestions, including giving deputies time during the day to take power naps. He says, while people may be reluctant to pay law enforcement to sleep on the job, it could actually pay off. For example, it could reduce the risk of an officer getting in an accident.

“How much does it cost you every time someone crashes one of those $100,000 police cruisers.”

King County is in the process of examining the amount of overtime being logged by sheriff deputies. Like most other governments, officers are working long hours as the county tries to do more with less.

The research on sleep deficit and police officers follows long running studies on the affect lack of sleep can have on airline pilots, who now have strict regulations regarding how much rest they have to have between flights.

Dr. Bryan Vila is a criminology professor at Washington State University. He works in the Sleep and Performance Research Center there.