Policing and keeping safe the Las Vegas Strip clearly come with many unique challenges. The Strip is known as one of the world’s adult playgrounds, and now with the success of major sporting events, it is morphing into the sports and entertainment capital of the world.
Convention Center Area Command is staffed differently to fulfill this unique requirement of making tourists feel safe and ensuring officers are highly visible on the Strip. CCAC is staffed with roughly 220 officers and detectives to handle this daunting task. CCAC staffing hours are unlike most patrol areas. Once swing shift hits the streets, there is a constant rotation of extra squads beginning their shifts at 7 p.m. to saturate the Strip during the busiest hours throughout the night. Captain Dori Koren was the previous captain at CCAC. He utilized many social media posts and videos to show how he created an omnipresence of officers through his deployment strategies. Now Captain Josh Bitsko is in charge of CCAC. He will have to guide his officers through the surge of openings and tourists flocking back to our wonderful Strip.
But in his first weeks at CCAC, something went drastically wrong. Prior to COVID, the officers at CCAC had heard persistent rumors that they would be switching to working 12-hour shifts. We fielded numerous calls and advised everyone that no one from staff had called to discuss this issue and that it could not happen without bargaining for it and gaining approval of the membership, as shift hours and work week are clearly defined in contract. After more calls from angry members at CCAC, I called Captain Koren. After a brief discussion, which included responses of “We are just thinking about it,” “We need to maximize officers’ performance and visibility” and many other catchphrases, I made the PPA’s position clear: You cannot do this without negotiating this item, as it is contractual. If you implement this, you will violate the contract and we will see you in court. In a roundabout response, he stated that he was told to move forward by his leadership and it was not a negotiation. His direct boss was Deputy Chief McGrath.
Previously at Downtown Area Command, we worked for several months with then-Captain Laz Chavez and Lieutenant Brian Cole to build a model with the help and guidance of the troops to implement a proposal to bring to the membership at DTAC for approval. This process took several months of analyzing shifts, crime trends, driving reports, deployment strategies and officer wellness factors. Throughout the entire process, the officers at DTAC were informed and able to voice their concerns regarding any changes or problems they saw. With that, when everything was solidified and approved by Executive Staff, we met and briefed every officer on every shift, providing them in-depth details of the 12-hour shift proposal. Because the officers at DTAC had buy-in and a voice in crafting the proposal with the leadership at DTAC, the 12-hour shift proposal overwhelmingly passed and was implemented.
Going back to CCAC, around the middle of November, then-Lieutenant Bitsko called and stated that he was being promoted to captain in December and that his first assignment from his chain was to implement CCAC moving to 12-hour shifts. I advised him of the contractual issues and explained how the previous attempt went with Captain Koren, as well as how successful the process was at DTAC.
After a week, we met several times to discuss his vision for CCAC and how 12-hour shifts would work for the officers. Our main focus on the implementation plan was:
- Do our officers want this?
- Will this create any safety issues?
- Will the extra hours impact performance?
- Will there be enough vehicles to handle the increased staffing?
- Will the officers be able to train on training days?
Catastrophic failure #1: The main takeaways from our meetings were that this plan was not fully vetted, that it had absolutely zero involvement from the PPA and the officers at CCAC, and that there were very little meetings like we had at DTAC to discuss impacts on crime, crime trends, etc. This was a rushed plan that was destined for destruction. The entire plan needed to be implemented in less than a month to fit it in by the bump. I told Captain Bitsko that this would be impossible due to no buy-in from the troops, not enough time to hit every briefing and every officer, and that the plan was not even set in place yet and logistical concerns had not been met. He said to give him a few days and everything would be in place.
Catastrophic failure #2: Captain Bitsko had a meeting with his leadership team at CCAC and released the plan, to include shifts, RDOs and changes to staffing levels. This was supposed to remain “confidential.” None of this information was shared with me to give any feedback or suggestions. The plan remained “confidential” for about a minute. I was at the T-Mobile Arena for the Luke Combs concert with my son for his 14th birthday and my phone started blowing up. I received text after text with screenshots of the schedule, and all I could say was I was blindsided and had not seen this nor had any discussions on it. The officers at CCAC were extremely upset with the proposal, which included:
- Having up to four officers in a caged car to be driven to a post. This was a clear, huge safety issue with officers being trapped in caged cars during an accident or ambush.
- Swing shift officers working a 12-hour shift starting at 4:30 p.m. and ending at 4:30 a.m. This would end their shift prior to 5 a.m. intentionally to avoid paying them the extra 2% for graveyard shift differential.
- The elimination of the stars enforcement teams.
- Day shift working from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
After the proposal was leaked and everyone had eyes on it, I met with Captain Bitsko again to offer support and make modifications to the proposal to salvage the 12-hour shifts for CCAC. I knew and still know that, if done correctly and in conjunction with the officers, the 12 hour-shifts at CCAC could be successful. However, with the direction being given to Captain Bitsko to push this out as soon as possible by Deputy Chief Seebock, or even Assistant Sheriff McGrath, the 12-hour shift proposal stood no shot.
Catastrophic failure #3: Deputy Chief Seebock requested the PPA to attend all briefings prior to Christmas to have the membership vote to approve or deny the proposal to move to 12-hour shifts. Executive Board members from the PPA, as well as Administrative Lieutenant Hernandez, attended and briefed over 60% of the membership in one day. Lieutenant Hernandez laid out Captain Bitsko’s plan and vision, to include the proposed staffing levels, shifts, RDOs and vehicle adjustment plan. Each officer had a chance to ask any questions prior to the vote. And then the voting began. By an overwhelming 98%, the membership at CCAC said “no” to the 12-hour shift proposal. With the vote being completed, the membership was told the patrol bump would proceed as normal, with all shifts being 10-hour shifts.
After the briefings and having New Year’s on the Strip and being able to talk to more CCAC officers, I provided additional feedback to Captain Bitsko and Lieutenant Hernandez, who would then pass the information to Deputy Chief Seebock. In true Metro fashion, none of that feedback was utilized and a surprise plan adjustment came from someone for Captain Bitsko to have approved.
Catastrophic failure #4: Just as the first plan was leaked and not discussed with the PPA, this plan was as well. We conducted another vote of our officers and, again, 98% of the officers at CCAC voted against the new 12-hour shift proposal. In hindsight, there is a lot that could have been done differently with the proposal. Most of those things were brought to the table in the beginning. For whatever reason, a decision was made by someone and they wanted what they wanted and that was it. What killed the 12-hour shifts, ignorance or arrogance? I can tell you that Captain Bitsko was a brand-new captain and was given an order to carry out and he did as he was told. He was set up for failure and not given the opportunity to successfully take the time to implement the 12-hour shifts like what occurred at DTAC.
Maybe one day we’ll revisit the 12-hour shifts at CCAC. If that happens, I hope they look at this with open eyes and ears.