MEMPHIS, Tenn. — There are rumors Memphis police officers will all call out sick as part of a “Blue Flu” over frustrations with changes to their health care premiums.
“Eventually, you can be the dog for so long before the dog will bite you,” said the Memphis Police Association President Mike Williams.
While Williams is just as angry and hurt as officers over the budget, he hopes a “Blue Flu” doesn’t happen.
“That would mean chaos and mayhem in this city,” said Williams. “I think the police department is preparing for it. Evidentially, they got wind of something happen, and they are preparing for it.”
Officers are threating to all call out sick one day next week to send a message to the city after it raised employee and retiree health insurance, some premiums by 300%, instead of raising property taxes to pay for the unfunded pension.
Sources told WREG MPD called a meeting letting them know officers can’t take vacation for the next two weeks, can’t call out sick unless they have a doctor’s note, and all officers, regardless of rank, must wear their uniform next week.
A spokesperson for the Memphis Police Department said in an email, “The Information Bulletin was issued due to the fact that administration has been made aware of a potential ‘Blue Flu.’ At this point, the ‘Blue Flu’ is only a rumor, but it is necessary to take the proper steps to ensure the safety of our officers and the citizens of Memphis.”
She went on to say “at this point no vacations have been cancelled and no officer has been denied scheduling vacation,” and “officers will not be denied their right to utilize their sick benefit time; however, if an officer violates the Memphis Police Department’s Sick Abuse policy corrective measures will be taken.”
MPD Director Toney Armstrong sent WREG this statement: “Our officers are aware of our sick policy. If anyone is found in violation of this policy, corrective measures will be taken. At this time, the “Blue Flu” is only a rumor. We are prepared to address any issues that may occur if indeed these rumors become an actuality. We have taken a proactive approach to ensure that public safety will not be at risk by making sure that we have adequate manpower to address our citizens needs.”
City councilman Harold Collins is begging officers to wait it out. He along with other city and union leaders are trying to find a way to make changes to the budget, so employees and retirees aren’t the only ones being hurt.
“I will not support them intentionally walking out and not showing up for work,” said Collins.
As for Memphians some get why officers are so upset.
“Taking anything away from them is undermining their authority and showing the city doesn’t support them,” said Timothy White.
While other citizens are afraid a Blue Flu could do more harm to the city.
“It will be punishing the community more, because everything will be out of hand,” said one citizen.
Williams said a Blue Flu has happened before, but not for a long time. He said Memphis fire and police went on strike in 1978, which forced the city to call in the National Guard and set a mandatory curfew.