COVINGTON - If you think you're seeing more deputies patrolling the roadways lately, it's because Newton County Sheriff Ezell Brown has implemented a new 12-hour shift rotation. The result? The same number of deputies in the department, but more deputies on duty at the same time giving better coverage of the patrol area.
"During the first quarter of this year alone, NCSO deputies have answered over 15,000 documented calls for service," Brown said. "Under the old shift rotation system (three eight-hour shifts with four days on and two days off) deputies were working extra days, long hours, and a lot of overtime to cover the necessary demands."
According to NCSO spokesman Lt. Mark Mitchell, the new system has the 70 road deputies in the department working one 60-hour week and one 24-hour week, making it possible to have every other weekend off, as well as some time off during the week. Built into the rotation is also what the NCSO is calling a Power Shift - a shift of deputies that will be used for crime suppression. This shift will be in place during peak call hours and can also be stationed in specific areas where crime appears to be on the rise.
Brown pointed out that under the former "antiquated" system, deputies would have to work six weeks before having a weekend off and were unable to spend quality time with their families.
"The new 12-hour shift rotation system will greatly improve the quality of life for both the citizens of Newton County and the deputies who serve," he said. "The new system will boost the overall morale of the Sheriff's Office by affording deputies more rest.
"A well-rested deputy makes a more alert, decisive and professional law enforcement officer who deals with critical life-saving incidents on a day-to-day basis," Brown said.
Mitchell agreed, adding that the Covington/Newton County 911 Center and the Covington Police Department, as well as many other law enforcement agencies, work under a 12-hour rotation system and have found it advantageous.
But, the biggest plus in the 12-hour rotation is that it shortens response time and increases visibility, and Mitchell said that has made catching criminals and offering assistance to residents quicker and more effective.
Barbara Knowles can be reached at email@example.com.