MEMPHIS, Tenn. — When the commanders come knocking, the police and fire departments say you better be coughing.
Both MPD and MFD have policies in place where they can check to make sure people calling in sick are home in bed. But with more than 500 police officers calling out, many to protest big health care cuts made by the city, the departments have their hands full.
Police and fire tell WREG the checks are random, and that’s the whole point – to catch those faking sick off guard. However, some feel all this talk of Blue Flu and Red Rash is making those who really are sick look bad.
Both departments even do door knocks to make sure officers and fire fighters are home.
Michael Williams with the Memphis Police Association said, “The police department normally sends people out to check that you’re at your place.”
Thomas Malone with the Memphis Fire Fighters Association said the fire department is so strict, people out sick must call in every time they leave the house, even if i’s just to go to the doctor. If they don’t, they’re usually disciplined.
“They will suspend you a minimum time of the time you were gone from the house, until you got back,” Malone said.
But with more than 500 police officers calling out, most to protest hikes to health care premiums, keeping tabs isn’t easy.
“It’s whenever the command staff deems necessary,” Williams explained. “They have the right to do, what I would designate as, a surprise visit,” Malone added of fire department supervisors.
Malone is worried people who are really sick are now being forced to defend themselves.
“I just had a guy go home sick,” he said. “I just got a call. He’s throwing up in the parking lot! But now he’s under suspicion of Red Rash or whatever.”
Malone also gave his opinion on why the firefighters have not been protesting to the extent the police officers have been. He thinks it comes down to camaraderie and the fact that firefighters work in teams and don’t want to leave their fleets short-handed.