MPD Director addresses ‘Blue Flu’ & cancellation of days off, vacations

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- WREG has confirmed the Memphis Police Department has cancelled regular days off and vacation days.

The cancellations are directly related to more than 500 sick calls since last Monday. Today, 522 officers were out sick.

Sources told WREG it's mostly patrol officers, but six dispatchers and dozens of investigators have also called out.

Administrators say officers are calling in sick to protest the changes, so they're having to ask the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office for help patrolling streets.

Police Director Toney Armstrong addressed the issue Monday evening.

He said MPD's policy does allow them to require a doctor's note, but they can't call and demand someone come back to work.

What happens if an officer doesn't have a note? Armstrong said they'll look at each case individually to see if officers violated policy, specifically related to the number of occurrences of calling out sick. If they violate policy, they can be suspended or fired.

He explained one continuous period is one occurrence. After three days, the occurrence is considered a long-term absence. Policy says up to six months can count as a single occurrence if the officer has the days, like when suffering from a major illness, and Armstrong can approve six more months.

Armstrong said the department is still able to provide same level of services, and citizens are not at risk. He added they've had to do some things they don't normally do and "It's challenging, but at this point, public safety hasn't been compromised."

Up to 180 officers patrol the city each shift, of which there are four in a day. Armstrong said that number has not been affected, but special units are taking a hit. He's had to pull people from Organized Crime, TACT, and Community Outreach Program and put them on the streets.

Armstrong said they've had to be creative, and even with the changes, there are no gaps within those units.

"The officers that are here have demonstrated that they want to be here...their level of dedication shows they're going to be here, regardless," he said.

He said there may be tension between those who went to work and those who called out sick.

"I certainly understand their level of disappointment and their level of hurt, but as I've said in the past, there's a process and we have to respect that," Armstrong said. "We have a certain percentage of our force that has chosen to take another action."

When asked how he might feel if he were a first responder, Armstrong responded, "I'm still a first responder...and I'm still here."

Armstrong said calling what's happening a strike is a legal question, and that this is different from when officers publicly say they're striking.

As for the cancellation of days off and vacation days, Armstrong said it's never their intent to cause financial hardship for our officers, so it's going to take some flexibility. He said they don't want to create a problem, and can honor financial obligations concerning vacations.

Memphis Police Association President Mike Williams said officers feel betrayed by the health care changes.

“You can’t ask a police officer to run into an active shooter situation and get shot and say, ‘We want you to do that, but we’re not going to give you healthcare on the back end.’”

Fifty sheriff’s deputies and reserves assisted police Saturday night, as did 37 Sunday night.

“We are constantly in contact with Director Armstrong and we will continue to do all we can to support in order to keep this community, his officers and our officers safe,” said Shelby County Sheriff Bill Oldham.

The sheriff's department said it is not affecting patrols in the county, because they've called in reserve deputies.

The changes affect all city employees, but police and fire unions have been the most vocal.


    • Grannybee

      I agree. Also, out in the REAL world if that many people did such a prank; they would get fired. Isn’t TN a n. “AT WILL” state?
      There are lots of out of work folks that. Would be grateful to train and take those jobs. Also, they wouldn’t be whining babies. Thank God that you have benefits!!!

  • B. Farmer

    Our military veterans have been dealing with having their benefits cut and with being ignored after serving our country. Everyone says they support the troops until you ask if they take military health insurance. Still, our military members cannot, nor would not, call in sick. MFD and MPD have lost the good will of many of us Memphians who wish they would take a lesson from our military and take their commitment more seriously.

  • John

    I can hear the National Guard coming! Enjoy your Martial Law city officials and chamber of commerce!! Enjoy your “economic growth” that you sold out for

  • s cole

    Memphis City Schools is now operated by Shelby County and we need to have the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department furnish for the City of Memphis, too.

    • d

      Man please the only thing the SCSD can do is write tickets on Germantown Pky . Then it takes two of them.

  • 1midtownmike

    Taterhead Willie and Ford Sr. started this mess and now where are they to be found? Chumps……every last one of you voters who bought into the race baiting…….you may want to reconsider what you’re going to do the next time you cast a ballot. Memphis is screwed and there’s not much of a tax base left. You think the federal government is going to bail you out after changing the rules and breaking promises? Bankruptcy by Dec 31, 2017 and you can’t blame this one on whitey.

    • Joe Bo

      Yeh I guess previous elected officials are tottally blameless. You must live in a toilet bowl mike.

    • patriotic1

      While I do agree that Herenton robbed Memphis blind, I’m not sure you read the bios of the candidates before they were elected to the Memphis City Council. Kemp Conrad, for one, has a bio that spelled out doing exactly what was done. He is a white Republican. Yes, the whole Council is to blame but we the citizens are responsible too. Study the candidates BEFORE voting them into office.

  • takenobull

    Tens of millions of dollars spend each year on things like the Beale Street landing and Fed Ex Ball park that ordinary Memphians cannot afford to use. Then you have all these free corporations who pay no taxes on the pretense of creating jobs. How ever those new job holders also hold the whole tax burden.

  • Phil

    It was reported today, that The City Council is seeking “alternative citizen solutions” to the funding crisis involving City workers. As I don’t have time to attend a meeting, and I do believe this is simply a precursor to a call for a property tax increase, I’d like to suggest something to those who appear to have an interest in such things:

    Let’s think…”Outside the box/squad car, etc.” What if MPD had an in house medical operation that offered standard MED tests..for free, standard vaccinations and standard treatment, for free, and staffed the place with nurses and a Nurse Practitioner? This should be an enormous benefit that could be used not only by active City workers, but by retirees. How much would THAT be worth to City employees? How much could that be worth, when negotiating Healthcare costs with an Insurance company? (i.e. Cigna) This concept worked very well for a few of the Tunica Casinos. Why not with MPD? How about our City Council and Mayor, and Union leaders get together and make something like this happen?

    It goes without saying, that a lot of things will have to change: #1:We have a declining tax base in a poor City. #2. Pension funding should have been addressed 20 years ago, but politically, it wasn’t going to happen….and didn’t. #3.
    If not now…when? Folks, we are on the same team. Stop with the grandstanding. Regardless of what Union leadership wants…we have a funding crisis. Regardless of The Mayor and City Council attempting to balance a budget with severely limited funds…we have a communication problem in our leadership. Regardless of our Police Chief finding it necessary to appear forceful, we have a morale issue with rank and file Officers. Find common ground.

    p.s. …and for Gawd Sake….get MPD some decent uniforms to wear. They look like bus drivers! (well…it’s been this way for 30 years, but..we must make changes!) P.p.s. Call me, and I might put this together for you. (for a slight fee)

    • patriotic1

      Excellent advice! I hope someone with power has the good sense to act on your ideas. Thank you!!

    • IwishUwould

      What happened to the 57 million the courts ordered the city to pay the schools, that AC got on TV and said was in the Bank drawing interest… Then they turned around and gave up the charter to keep from paying it.. Where is the money the City employee’s paid into the pension and do they get it back. Also why isn’t anyone questioning the City’s CFO Gorge Little about what happened to the money. In my opinion there need’s to be a Federal investigation at the Federal level.. Someone has been steeling seems to me.

  • Hard Truths

    If we fire the corrupt, the stupid, the incompetent, the brutal cops, and the ones who have abused their sick leave policy, then there will be plenty of money to pay benefits and pensions to those who have not tarnished their badges.

  • james shands

    I would like to ask 1 question…is the MPD correlating the sick officers and the ones that are working at walmart and other like stores to see if they are working while taking sick days?

  • Packing

    Why is the Council asking for citizen input?? They won’t listen. They never do. Several times things have been voted down by the citizens yet the City goes ahead with it. Take the Forum. Was voted down, yet we have it.

    Last time Memphis had a police and fire issue we lost many buildings to arson, lost power to the whole city, and the national guard was brought in. If this happens again, it will be worse. Just call us South Detroit.

  • Gusto Smooth

    Welcome to the real world, cops. A lot of Americans are working harder yet losing some of their fringe benefits. Y’all can cry me a river. At least you’ve still got that meal ticket you call a badge.

  • Tack

    You elect people like Janice Fullilove, Ophelia Ford, Henri Brooks, etc… and then you act surprised when this happens?

  • Houses for Sale in Desoto

    The good news is that you can save $10 on the cost of a current movie. THE PURGE coming to a Memphis neighborhood near you!! Live action theater no purchase necessary.

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