Sleeping on the job isn’t always such a scandal, but when you’re tasked with protecting the President of the United States, staying alert is a non-negotiable job requirement. Last week, it was reported that, in August, two secret service officers were found napping at their posts – one of whom was stationed at the White House Complex. Inspectors discovered the snoozing agents while auditing the Secret Service’s radio and communications unit. Both officers were reportedly referred on for disciplinary action; however, the Inspector General issued a management warning, which indicated the officers’ inappropriate behavior stems from working extremely long hours, which may pose an “immediate or potential danger” to both the agents and those they protect.
According to the Inspector General’s report, one of the agents had worked almost 60 hours of overtime during the pay-period leading up to the incident. The other officer didn’t work as many overtime hours, but repeatedly worked 12-hour days, rotating from indoor and outdoor shifts. Both agents cited fatigue as a contributing factor to the incident.
Sleep deprivation is unfortunately a common occurrence in law enforcement. The generally inconsistent work hours, over scheduling and overnight shifts have been linked to causing sleep disorders among both law enforcement officials and military personnel. According to the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), researchers estimate that 40 percent of police officers suffer from sleep disorders, which is close to double the estimated rate among the general population. The NIJ reports that officers with sleep disorders have a higher risk of falling asleep while driving, committing a safety violation and “experiencing uncontrolled anger towards a suspect” than officers without sleep disorders.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC), recently conducted the largest population-based study of U.S. adults, and found that both recent and former active military duty is associated with increased prevalence of insufficient sleep. According to the CDC, lack of sleep among military personnel may cause impaired cognitive function, increased confusion, fatigue and depression.
While it was obviously unprofessional for the Secret Service agents to fall asleep on the job, it’s important to remember that they are simply human, and sufficient sleep is necessary to function. Hopefully the Secret Service will address the intense working conditions of its employees, so an incident like this doesn’t happen again.
Insufficient sleep is a serious problem, and in extreme cases it can cause federal government employees to underperform with their job duties. We have had several past clients who were approved for medical disability retirement because of their debilitating sleep disorders. If you suffer from a sleep disorder that is negatively affecting your federal career, CONTACT Harris Federal for a free consultation. You may have a case.