With nearly a quarter of the force out, MPD director combats 'Bl - FOX Carolina 21

With nearly a quarter of the force out, MPD director combats 'Blue Flu'

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MPD canceled regular time off and scheduled vacation days to handle the 522 officers out sick and not on the streets.  (Photo Source: WMC Action News 5) MPD canceled regular time off and scheduled vacation days to handle the 522 officers out sick and not on the streets. (Photo Source: WMC Action News 5)
Although, he says the so-called Blue Flu work stoppage is something he's never seen. (Photo Source: WMC Action News 5) Although, he says the so-called Blue Flu work stoppage is something he's never seen. (Photo Source: WMC Action News 5)
MEMPHIS, TN -

(WMC) - Memphis Police Department Director Toney Armstrong is taking a dramatic step to combat the so-called "Blue Flu," which is a work stoppage of more than 500 officers—as of Monday night—in the wake of benefits cuts.

"I don't know of a period in my career when we've experienced anything like this," Armstrong said during a news conference Monday.

MPD canceled regular time off and scheduled vacation days to handle the 522 officers out sick on Monday and not on the streets.

In 1978, the National Guard helped restore order during an eight-day strike by Memphis police and firefighters; laws were changed to keep it from re-occurring. But Armstrong says he doesn't know if the department has enough information to determine if he has a strike on his hands.

Although, he says the so-called Blue Flu work stoppage is something he's never seen.

"Certainly our prayers is that it's short-lived and officers return and we get back to work," he said.

MPD has a full complement of about 2,200 officers. With 522 out sick on Monday, that translates into approximately 23 percent of the force. See how the numbers break down here: http://bit.ly/VBYgPH.

Per policy, officers get up to six month sick time and only need to call in once, but they must provide a doctor's note upon their return.

"I implore the officers to go back to work, take over the counter meds, and get well real soon, because our city needs you," said Memphis City Councilman Harold Collins, who voted against slashing health care benefits.

He says possible remedies are in the works at city hall but that takes time. Meanwhile, sheriff's deputies will assist MPD as its officers shuffle.

"All of the personnel we have available to us, we are redeploying personnel if we see fit to do so," said Armstrong.

Armstrong continues to stress that public safety has not been compromised, and he's not ready to speculate on how this may end.

Copyright 2014 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved.

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