They serve a county of 1.2 million people around the clock, investigating everything from auto burglaries to the sound of gunshots piercing the night air.
In less than three weeks, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office will tackle its largest feat to date: Keeping the peace across the county during the Republican National Convention while working 12-hour shifts for 10 days in a row, from Aug. 24 through Sept. 2.
"It's going to be exhausting for the deputies out on the street," said Capt. Andy Ross of District 3, which covers Original Carrollwood, Citrus Park, Westchase, Keystone, Odessa and Town N' Country. "We are getting deputies prepared for this as much as possible."
Long Hours Part of the Job
The 12-hour shifts aren't new for deputies, who currently work one of five shifts they bid on based upon seniority: 6 a.m. until 6 p.m., 7 a.m. until 7 p.m., 3 p.m. until 3 a.m., 6 p.m. until 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. until 7 a.m.
But working more than two days in a row is, Ross said.
Currently, if a deputy works on Monday and Tuesday of one week, they're off Wednesday and Thursday, and work Friday through Sunday, Ross said. The next week is the opposite: The deputy would be off on Monday and Tuesday, work Wednesday and Thursday and be off Friday through Sunday, Ross said.
Without a break during the RNC detail, Ross and other officials at the sheriff's office are preparing deputies for the grueling work schedule by handling small things for them.
Laundry, for one.
"We are working on agreements with a local cleaners to pick up and distribute uniforms," Ross said. "We're also telling them to make sure their family is doing things like keeping their yards up (that week)."
Working the RNC Is a Team Effort
About 4,000 law enforcement officers from agencies around the state will be dispatched to patrol the RNC, said Larry McKinnon, spokesman for the sheriff's office.
While Tampa Bay has hosted major events in the past, including the Super Bowl in 2009, McKinnon said the RNC is on a larger scale.
"We've handled these crowds before, but this is different because it's high profile, and there are so many dignitaries and protesters," McKinnon said.
Law Enforcement Shifts Can Take Their Toll
Susan Bramer, a psychotherapist and licensed clinical social worker who practices in Carrollwood, said deputies already have a "high incidence of fatigue" while working their daily shifts, which could be exacerbated due to their work schedules during the RNC.
Increased fatigue could cause a higher risk of accidents, shorter attention span and reduced hand-eye coordination, Bramer said.
"My fear is, they would have a higher likelihood of using inappropriate uses of force if they are under stress," she said. "My recommendation for folks in that situation is that they would try as much as possible to stick to a regular sleep and waking cycle."
Ross said he wants citizens to be patient with law enforcement officers to ensure everyone's safety.
"Just work with us," he said. "Now is the time to practice those crime prevention tips we talk about, like closing your garage door and locking your car. Anything you can do to prevent a crime will be helpful to us."
What do you think about deputies working 12-hour schedules over a 10-day span? Tell us in the comments.