MPD Director Armstrong addresses staffing, confirms 'Blue Flu' - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

MPD Director Armstrong addresses staffing, confirms 'Blue Flu'

"There is a process, we have to respect the process and in that we have to honor a commitment that we made and that is to provide public safety," said Armstrong. (Photo Source: WMC Action News 5) "There is a process, we have to respect the process and in that we have to honor a commitment that we made and that is to provide public safety," said Armstrong. (Photo Source: WMC Action News 5)
Officials would not say how many officers called in multiple days, or how many total shifts have been missed. (Photo Source: WMC Action News 5) Officials would not say how many officers called in multiple days, or how many total shifts have been missed. (Photo Source: WMC Action News 5)

(WMC) - Hundreds of Memphis police officers are off the streets in a silent protest to budget cuts after more than 10 percent of the Memphis Police Department called in sick.

After days of rumors, city leaders acknowledged what officers are calling the "Blue Flu", vowing to keep you safe no matter what it costs.

Sunday afternoon Memphis Mayor A C Wharton and Police Director Toney Armstrong called a news conference regarding the work slow down; a costly employee action in response to a recent city council vote to reduce health care funding and redirect pension funds.

Watch the full news conference here: http://www.wmcactionnews5.com/clip/10338063/watch-public-officials-discuss-confirm-blue-flu-during-news-conference.

Armstrong noted that 308 officers have called out sick since Monday, prompting enough of a strain on staffing and causing MPD to make changes during the weekend.

"I will acknowledge that fact that this is more than normal for us, and it appears on the surface that we do have a work action, some type of work slow down in place," said Director Armstrong.

Officials would not say how many officers called in multiple days, or how many total shifts have been missed. As of Saturday, 181 officers had called in sick, resulting in extra help from the Shelby County Sheriff's Office on Beale Street patrol.

"I would like to publicly thank the sheriff and Shelby County Sheriff's Office, as they always have, for being right there, our law enforcement brothers for being right there. They always have for us," added Armstrong.

Saturday's assistance was a direct result of staffing issues, but Armstrong says they use sheriff deputies during big events such as Memphis in May and New Year's Eve.

However, Armstrong noted that contingency plans were in place to help with staffing, including redeploying organized crime units and requiring officers to return to uniform patrol.

"There is a process, we have to respect the process and in that we have to honor a commitment that we made and that is to provide public safety," said Armstrong.

Meantime, Mayor Wharton would not say whether he sympathized with officers, only that the residents of Memphis are being held hostage.

"Over 300 officers don't just accidentally call in at the same time," said Mayor Wharton. "We're looking at all alternatives, including greater use of the sheriff's department. Whatever it takes to keep the folks in Memphis safe, whatever it takes, we're gonna do it"

According to Wharton, city council members will meet Monday to discuss any possible alternatives, and may have an announcement by that afternoon.

Wharton also noted that the shortage in officers is costing the city money,  both in overtime and in what he says is a possible loss in visitors to the city.

Copyright 2014 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved.      
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