How Many Hours Does a Cop Work a Week? (Ultimate Guide)

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 Brian Humenuk | Author | COPJOT

By Brian Humenuk, MS|CJA, COPJOT

Updated on December 30, 2023

⏱️ 3-minute read or less


Police officers, just like their jobs, have "demanding" schedules. They can vary significantly depending on their department, location, and the specific needs of their community.

Understanding the typical work hours for police officers provides insight into the challenges and commitments involved in law enforcement.

In this article I am going to deep dive into the various aspects of police work schedules, including the length of shifts, weekly hours, and the overall demands placed on officers.

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7 top reasons to be a police officer

What Hours Do Police Officers Work?

Police officers typically work a variety of shifts, which can include days, evenings, and nights.

These shifts are designed to ensure that there is always adequate coverage to handle emergencies and maintain public safety.

The nature of police work requires 24/7 availability, which means officers must be prepared to work at any time of day or night, including weekends and holidays.

Shift schedules can vary between departments, but they generally fall into three main categories:

  • Day Shifts: Usually starting early in the morning and ending in the late afternoon or early evening.
  • Evening Shifts: Typically starting in the late afternoon and ending late at night.
  • Night Shifts: Also known as graveyard shifts, these start late at night and end in the early morning hours.

How Many Hours Do Police Officers Work a Day?

The number of hours police officers work each day can depend on the department’s policies and the specific needs of the community they serve.

hours police officers work

Generally, police officers work shifts that range from 8 to 12 hours. The most common shift lengths include:

  • 8-Hour Shifts: These are traditional work shifts where officers work eight hours a day, typically five days a week.
  • 10-Hour Shifts: Some departments use 10-hour shifts, allowing officers to work four days a week with three days off.
  • 12-Hour Shifts: This shift model involves officers working 12 hours a day, usually resulting in fewer workdays per week but longer individual shifts.

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How Long Is a Police Shift?

Police Officer shifts can vary widely depending on the department's scheduling system. Common shift lengths include:

  • 8-Hour Shifts: These are typical for many professions and involve working eight hours per day. For police officers, this often means five workdays per week with two days off.
  • 10-Hour Shifts: A less common but still prevalent model where officers work four 10-hour days, followed by three days off.
  • 12-Hour Shifts: Increasingly popular in many police departments, 12-hour shifts allow for longer breaks between work periods. Officers working these shifts typically have three or four days off each week.

Work Schedule for Police Officers

work schedule for police officers

The work schedule for a police officer can be highly variable and is often influenced by several factors, including the size of the department, crime rates, and community needs. Here are some common work schedule patterns:

  • Fixed Shifts: Some officers work a fixed schedule where they consistently work the same hours each day. This is more common in smaller departments.
  • Rotating Shifts: Many police departments use rotating shifts, where officers rotate through day, evening, and night shifts over a set period, such as monthly or quarterly.
  • On-Call Shifts: In addition to regular shifts, officers may be required to be on call, ready to respond to emergencies outside their scheduled hours.

How Many Days a Week Do Police Officers Work?

The number of days police officers work in a week can vary based on their shift schedule. The most common patterns include:

  • Five Days a Week: Officers working 8-hour shifts typically work five days a week with two days off.
  • Four Days a Week: Officers on 10-hour shifts usually work four days a week, followed by three days off.
  • Three or Four Days a Week: Officers working 12-hour shifts often work three or four days a week, which provides longer rest periods between shifts.

What is a rotating schedule in police terminology?

A rotating police schedule is a work schedule in which officers alternate their shifts over a set period, rather than working the same hours consistently.

This type of schedule is designed to ensure 24/7 coverage and can help distribute the workload more evenly among officers. Common features of rotating police schedules include:

  1. Shift Types: Typically divided into three main shifts—day, evening, and night.
  2. Rotation Period: Officers may rotate shifts on a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly basis.
  3. Pattern: Could follow a specific pattern such as 5 days on, 2 days off, or a more complex cycle like 4 days on, 3 days off, followed by 3 days on, 4 days off.
  4. Fairness: Aims to distribute less desirable shifts (like nights and weekends) evenly among all officers.
  5. Health and Well-being: May impact sleep patterns and work-life balance, making it important for departments to consider officers' health and safety.

For example, an officer might work a day shift (7 AM - 3 PM) for one week, switch to an evening shift (3 PM - 11 PM) the next week, and then move to a night shift (11 PM - 7 AM) the following week.

This rotation helps ensure that all shifts are covered and that no single group of officers is always assigned the more challenging or less desirable shifts.

What is shift bidding in Police Terminology?

Police officer shift bidding is a process in which officers select their preferred work shifts based on seniority, rank, or a combination of factors.

This system allows officers to have some control over their schedules, potentially increasing job satisfaction and accommodating personal needs.

During the bidding process, officers submit their shift preferences, and assignments are made according to a predefined hierarchy or point system.

For example, more senior officers might get first choice of the available shifts, followed by those with less seniority. Shift bidding can occur annually, biannually, or quarterly, depending on the department's policies.

While this method aims to balance operational needs with individual preferences, it can also lead to competition and dissatisfaction if popular shifts are limited and only accessible to higher-ranking or more senior officers.

Overall, shift bidding provides a structured and transparent way to allocate shifts while considering both organizational requirements and officer welfare.

Do Police Officers Work Overtime

Yes, police officers often work overtime. This can be due to various reasons, such as:

  1. Staff Shortages: To cover shifts when there are not enough officers available.
  2. Special Events: Such as parades, concerts, and sporting events that require additional security.
  3. Emergencies: Natural disasters, major accidents, or incidents requiring a significant police presence.
  4. Investigations: When cases demand extended hours to gather evidence, interview witnesses, or follow leads.
  5. Court Appearances: Testifying in court, which can sometimes extend beyond regular working hours.
  6. Patrol Needs: To ensure adequate coverage during peak times or high-crime periods.

Overtime can be either voluntary or mandatory, depending on the department's needs and policies. 

Why Do Police Officers Work So Much Overtime?

Police officers often work substantial amounts of overtime due to various factors. High crime rates, staff shortages, and the need for increased police presence during special events or emergencies can significantly extend work hours.

police officer working overtime

Additionally, mandatory court appearances, ongoing investigations, traffic details and additional duties such as training and administrative tasks contribute to the need for overtime.

Many departments also have contractual obligations that allow or require overtime to meet public safety needs, further extending the hours worked by officers.

The Demands and Challenges of Police Work Hours

The work hours and schedules of police officers can have significant impacts on their physical and mental health.

Extended shifts and frequent overtime can lead to fatigue, stress, and difficulty maintaining a work-life balance.

Despite these challenges, many officers find their work rewarding and are dedicated to serving and protecting their communities.

Understanding the demands of the job and the various scheduling models can help prospective officers prepare for the realities of a career in law enforcement.


Becoming a police officer involves a commitment to serving and protecting the community, often requiring long and irregular work hours.

Understanding the demands of the job and the varying work schedules can help prospective officers prepare for the challenges ahead.

Despite the demanding hours, many find a rewarding career in law enforcement, driven by the desire to make a positive impact on society.

About the Author

Brian Humenuk isn't just an entrepreneur in eCommerce, he is also an informed leader whose experience provides followers and visitors with a look into current and past police issues making headlines in the United States.

Brian has earned three degrees in Criminal Justice with the last, a Masters of Science in Criminal Justice Administration.

Brian extends his training, education, and experience to the officers just now getting into the field so that they may become more informed police officers and stay clear of police misconduct and corruption. 

You can find out more about Brian and the COPJOT story on the ABOUT US page.

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