Mayor Wharton: Blue Flu is an “undesirable situation”

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Mayor Wharton won’t call the Blue Flu a crisis, but rather an undesirable situation. It’s an undesirable situation for officers who are being called in from days off and planned vacation to cover other officers shifts.

Wharton says if the Blue Flu continues, they may need to call for backup from other agencies.

Tim Cook retired from the force two years ago. He says every officer deals with situations where they needed to work a week straight in times of need on the force.

“Every night when you go to work, every day when you go to work, it’s the same stress day in, day out. The difference is when you don’t have a day off.”

That’s what Memphis police officers are dealing with this week. It’s all hands on deck to fill the hundreds of holes in the schedule because of the Blue Flu crisis. But the real concern is, how long will it last?

Cook said, “Things have not gotten bad yet, those officers are not hurting yet. You give them three weeks of this, OK we might revisit that.”

The officers are protesting the hike in health care premiums, and since it’s illegal to strike in Tennessee, this is the route they chose. Cook and other MPD officers say the mayor needs to get to work on a new plan.

“When you turn around and get on TV and say what ideas do you have, what can we do instead? That’s not our job. It’s their job. It’s the city’s job.”

Mayor Wharton insists public safety is not in jeopardy. And the city’s exploring all options to keep it that way, including bringing in the National Guard.

“I don’t believe in throwing down the gauntlet. I believe in keeping conversation open. But at the same time knowing, that we have the wherewithal to do whatever it takes, and will do whatever it takes to keep the city safe.”

Wharton administration officials say pro-active police work, like gang units and community development officers are being pulled from the street to help with reactive crime situations to make sure everyone is safe.

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