552 out sick during 'Blue Flu' demonstration - CBS 5 - KPHO

552 out sick during 'Blue Flu' demonstration

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As of 2:50 p.m. Monday, 501 officers are not at work. (Photo Source: WMC Action News 5 file) As of 2:50 p.m. Monday, 501 officers are not at work. (Photo Source: WMC Action News 5 file)
On Saturday, police were forced to call in Shelby County deputies to help man Beale Street, which is usually protected by Memphis police officers. (Photo Source: WMC Action News 5) On Saturday, police were forced to call in Shelby County deputies to help man Beale Street, which is usually protected by Memphis police officers. (Photo Source: WMC Action News 5)
MEMPHIS, TN -

(WMC) - Memphis Police Department canceled officers' regular days off and scheduled vacations to handle the sick calls from the so-called "Blue Flu."

As of 8:15 Tuesday morning, there are 552 MPD officers out sick and not on the streets.

MPD Director Toney Armstrong addressed the media about concerns of the demonstration and said public safety has not been compromised. Armstrong asked the media to cut cameras, because it was unclear he was on live television; he then took media's questions to break down the numbers.

The sick calls began June 30; a little more than a dozen were out before that.

On Saturday, police were forced to call in Shelby County deputies to help man Beale Street, which is usually protected by Memphis police officers.

By Sunday, 308 officers had called out sick and police had an emergency meeting with the sheriff. Later in the day Sunday, the mayor and police director held a news conference acknowledging some type of demonstration is underway.

From June 30 to early Monday, 481 officers called out. As of early Monday evening, 522 officers are not at work. As of Tuesday morning, the number of officers out sick stands at 552.

The "Blue Flu" was predicted to happen after the city voted to make major cuts to public servants' health care benefits.

The New Allen police precinct in North Memphis takes the most crime calls in the whole city. Residents there are torn over what has been dubbed the "Blue Flu."

"We're in a catch 22 as citizens because, yes, we want the protection, we need the protection, we deserve the protection, but they need their rights protected, too," said Memphis resident Harriet Stanton.

Others are upset about the effects the "Blue Flu" could have on public safety and because taxpayers could have to pay overtime to the officers who are backing up the officers who called in sick.

"I think they should be fired because it's a responsibility for us that we have to be protected," said Helen Fulp.

But there are also others who think the city employees got a raw deal.

"Let's start up on top. Let's cut the mayor's salary. Let's cut some of his assistant's salaries, then let's cut from some of those making these decisions," said Memphis resident Calvin Harris. "Then, we see where we need to go from there."

WMC Action News 5's Kontji Anthony asked MPD for a breakdown of the precincts that are most affected by the sick calls. The department said it is unable to provide those numbers for safety reasons, but it did confirm the "Blue Flu" is happening in every precinct.

Memphis Police Association President Mike Williams says the sick calls will soon convert to even more officers leaving Memphis.

"When we got hired, we were promised certain things," said Williams. "Now, those things have been reneged on. So, it has a lot of people saying, 'What about my family?'"

On Monday, Memphis City Councilman Jim Strickland announced public hearings are scheduled to search for alternatives to the health care cuts. 

"Frankly, I hope most of our employees stay because we have a lot of really good employees," said Strickland.

Public input will be welcomed at the next Memphis City Council meeting, which will be held July 15 at 8 a.m. 

For a look at some of the alternative proposals Strickland mentioned, click herehttp://ftpcontent4.worldnow.com/wmctv/alternativeproposals.pdf 

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