Los Angeles Police Department officials Tuesday were investigating whether a spike in officers calling in sick over the Fourth of July weekend was an organized protest against calls to defund police and the city’s slashing of $150 million from the agency’s budget.
The Los Angeles Times reported that an anonymous letter was circulated among officers last week, encouraging them to call in sick to make a statement that they are not “expendable.”
“They succeeded in defunding the police; what do you think is next? Our pay? Our benefits? Our pensions? You’re (expletive) right all those things are in jeopardy now,” the letter stated, according to The Times, which obtained a copy. “We have to send the city a clear message that we are not expendable and we are not going to take this crap anymore.”
Sources told The Times that as many as 300 officers called in sick over the holiday weekend, including nearly everyone in select anti-gang units.
LAPD Chief Michel Moore told the paper he is not jumping to any conclusions, noting there could be other reasons for the unusually high numbers of absent officers, including the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“Rather than jumping to conclusions and indicting and impugning the integrity of our rank and file, I’m asking that we explore this,” Moore told The Times. “We want to find the facts out before we start making sweeping judgments.”
Moore told the paper officers who knowingly participate in an organized sick-out — or “Blue Flu” — action would be guilty of misconduct.
The chief said the department had arranged beefed-up staffing ahead of the holiday weekend, so the sick calls did not result in any patrol shifts being short-staffed.
The Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union representing LAPD officers, told the paper it had no role in the spike in sick calls, and in fact sent its members an email urging them not to participate in any organized sick-out.
“We have heard some unsubstantiated rumors of a potential `Blue Flu’ where officers would coordinate to call in sick for the same day. We urge you to not take this action,” the union’s message said, according to The Times. “The Board of Directors of the Los Angeles Police Protective League unequivocally condemns any attempt to engage in a `Blue Flu.’ It is wrong, it is illegal, and it is contrary to the oath we all took as police officers to protect our community.”
According to The Times, at least 91 officers called in sick in the Southeast Division, along with 31 in the Southwest Division and unusually high numbers in the 77th and Foothill divisions.
But Moore and LAPPL President Craig Lally both told the paper the vast majority of officers scheduled to work over the weekend showed up for their shifts.
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