Since June 17, Memphis, TN police officers have been calling in sick with what some are calling the “Blue Flu” in protest of City Council’s decision to cut the health care benefits of police, firefighters, and their families, and instead pump the money into the city’s floundering pension fund.
So far, 554 (and quickly rising) officers have called in sick–about a quarter of the city’s 2,200-strong police force.
Governor Bill Haslam said on Tuesday that Tennessee Highway Patrol has dedicated troopers to fill in for the “sick” police officers. “We have plans to dedicate a certain number of officers there from the Highway Patrol,” Haslam said. “Obviously we can’t do that forever, but we do want to step in and help.” Deputies from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office are already helping to make up for the shortfall in manpower brought on by this council-caused sickness.
Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong says that officers who abuse the sick-leave policy will be disciplined. In fact, they are making officers jump through hoops to call in sick. Officers who call in sick are required to speak to their supervisor every day they are off the job and explain what duties their “illness” prevents them from performing. After three days, they are required to visit a doctor and obtain a note explaining why they can not perform their duties–something that has become more expensive since the council voted to cut health benefits.
Mayor A C Wharton Jr. says that public safety has not been compromised by this police force health crisis. “We intend to do whatever is necessary to keep it that way,” Wharton said.