Do police officers working the night shift get injured more than those working during the day?
Many believe so.
After all, violent incidents that lead to injuries are generally thought of occurring under the cover of darkness, on empty streets or even after a heavy night of drinking.
According to a recent study by the University at Buffalo, in which members of the Buffalo Police Department were assessed, urban officers working during the night were three times more likely than day shift and 2.2 times more likely than afternoon shift to sustain injuries that led to leaves of 90 days or more.
The study, which gathered data over a 15-year span, pointed to sleep disturbances, call frequency and the inclination of police departments to place younger, more inexperienced officers on night shift as possible factors.
A University at Buffalo research scientist, John Violanti, who authored the study, suggested that these factors not only lead to injuries but long injury absences that quickly put strain on personnel covering for their injured colleagues.
Interestingly, local police had slightly different results.
"We had a total of 27 reported injuries in 2013," said Harry Snellings, chief of police at the Jamestown Police Department. "There were seven on the night shift, eight on the day shift and three with the (afternoon) shift."
The remaining nine involved the investigative unit, administrative section and training accidents, Snellings added.
While acknowledging that these numbers only represented one year and that Buffalo was a more urban environment than Jamestown, Snellings said that shifts typically differentiated little as far as injuries were concerned.
"I was expecting to see the majority of our injuries being on the afternoon shift because that tends to be our busiest shift ... but it was our least," Snellings said. "A lot of the calls on the (afternoon shift) tend to be responding to more "in-progress-related" calls. We tend to see more domestic violence incidents, situations in bars, complications during an arrest ... but these incidents don't necessarily lead to greater injuries."
The Jamestown Police Department does not rotate personnel through shifts, according to Snellings. The most senior officers get first choice of shifts - usually the day shift from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. - while the most junior officers choose last, often getting the afternoon shift from 3-11 p.m. There is a minimum staffing requirement of six officers working each shift.
Chautauqua County Sheriff Joseph Gerace, while concurring that the call volume at night is generally less than afternoon or day shifts, said the potential of injury at night is nonetheless greater.
"Our call volume is lesser on night shifts, but those types of calls are sometimes more significant in danger," Gerace said. "Burglaries, domestics-in-progress, robberies, violent situations with disorderly people ... and there's fewer (patrol) cars on the road, you don't have other administrative positions that can come as back-up."
Gerace further emphasized that the Buffalo Police Department and the aforementioned study is not necessarily indicative of every other department, and that every police agency has its own rules and community issues to face.
"We're really fortunate that we don't have a lot of deputies injured here," Gerace said. "Part of that is good fortune, part of it is good training and preparation, and part of it is not making bad judgement calls."