Nearly 500 cops call in sick to protest healthcare cuts in Memphis
On Monday this week, MPD spokesperson Sgt. Karen Rudolph confirmed to the Knoxville News Sentinel that 472 officers were off of work that afternoon after claiming to be sick. One day earlier, Mayor A C Wharton said at a news conference that 308 officer had called out of work since the previous Monday, causing a noticeable strain on the department’s ability to patrol the streets. Now if the trend continues in this manner, the number of active cops on the MPD may be obliterated even further.
Over the weekend, Police Director Toney Armstrong acknowledged that the growing number of officers calling out of work was the result of an effort waged after the City Council voted recently to reduce health care subsidies for city employees. According to the Memphis Flyer, city officials approved those changes when they agreed to pass a new budget last month. Now ahead of a July 15 vote where changes to the city employee pension plan are expected to be approved, officers are striking en masse by using up their sick days to express their outrage.
Officer Mike Williams, the president of the local police union, told a Memphis CBS News affiliate recently that a potential strike seemed to be among the only options the cops had left to speak up.
“Sometimes there’s a ground swell and sometimes you can only kick a dog for so long before it bites you,” Williams said.
Speaking to Memphis Commercial Appeal, however, Williams explained that his union isn’t necessary endorsing the strike.
"This is not something that the MOA (Memorandum of Agreement) orchestrated or condoned," he said. "I don't necessarily agree with this because we were getting support from the citizens and smaller businesses in the community."
Meanwhile, the toll of the ever increasing list of officers on sick-leave is all too apparent in Memphis, where law enforcement officials from neighboring towns have been forced to assist in recent days. According to Commercial Appeal, around 50 Shelby County Sheriff’s deputies assisted with law enforcement procedures on Saturday, when 181 members of the MPD called in sick.
"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.
As of earlier this year in May, the total number of officers working for the MPD was just below 2,280. At the time, Armstrong said he needed at least 2,400 officers “to continue full services” for the city.