(WMC) - In the midst of a holiday weekend, Memphis Police Department is responding to a rumored "Blue Flu," officers calling in sick out of protest to city budget cuts that could affect their employee benefits.
On Saturday night, Memphis police had to call in sheriff's deputies to help patrol the entertainment district. Earlier that day, the Memphis police director issued a formal response.
Since Monday, 181 officers have called in sick, though they would not say how many called in on Saturday.
Around 9 p.m., dozens of Shelby County sheriff deputies gathered outside FedEx Forum before heading out. Memphis Police Department confirms they were called downtown to help, but say that it has been done in the past.
On Thursday, Memphis Police Association president Mike Williams told WMC Action News 5, "I've made the comment if you kick a dog long enough that dog will bite you. I hope that it does not come to that."
Williams made that comment as rumors spread of a potential MPD "Blue Flu" headed into the holiday weekend.
Meanwhile, Beale Street patrons are glad someone is watching.
"That's a good thing because it's extra force. The Sheriff Department is able to do more they are hand in with them but they are able to do more," said Keyla Allen.
Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong issued the following statement:
"As of our most recent count, we have identified 181 officers that have called in sick since June 30, 2014. The Memphis Police Department is re-deploying manpower in an effort to provide continuity of services to the citizens of Memphis. In doing so, the Shelby County Sheriff's Office has agreed to assist with tonight's operations on Beale Street as they have done in the past. At this time public safety has not been compromised. All precincts are operating at adequate staffing levels. We will continue to monitor and evaluate staffing levels throughout the city and make adjustments as needed to ensure public safety.
The Director has briefed the Mayor and he has authorized the use of any resources needed to include overtime to ensure that public safety will not be compromised."