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More Than 550 Memphis Police Call In Sick In 'Blue Flu' Protest

By Tim Ghianni

More than 550 police officers from Memphis, Tennessee, called in sick on Tuesday, a quarter of the department, in an escalating protest over cuts in health benefits that could eventually cost some officers their jobs, the city's mayor said.

The so-called "blue flu" wave started June 30 and has grown daily in an apparent protest to a new Memphis budget that raises the health premiums active city workers pay and cuts retiree health benefits, officials said.

"I understand the disappointment these officers feel," Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr said in a statement. "However, disappointment is not an excuse to abuse the sick leave policy and refuse to perform the duties they are paid to carry out to ensure public safety."

More than 550 of the department's 2,200 officers called in sick Tuesday. Memphis has canceled vacations and other scheduled time off for officers to take up the slack and the Shelby County sheriff has helped fill in gaps, officials said.

Wharton said public safety has not been compromised and the city would do whatever is necessary to keep it that way.

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Background Photo Credit: Kasia Broussalian © 2015