LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The LAPD is investigating whether a spike in officers calling in sick over the holiday weekend was part of an organized protest against the city slashing $150 million from the agency’s budget.
The Los Angeles Times obtained an anonymous letter that reportedly circulated among officers last week, encouraging them to call in sick to make the 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 L.A. Times that as many as 300 officers called in sick over the July 4th weekend, including nearly everyone in some anti-gang units.
LAPD Chief Michel Moore told the newspaper that he is not jumping to any conclusions, because there could be other reasons for the unusual number of sick calls — 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 said that officers who knowingly participated in any organized sick-out would be guilty of misconduct. He also noted that extra officers had been added to the schedule ahead of the holiday, so no patrol shifts were short-staffed.
The LAPD union told the paper that it did not play a role in the spike in sick calls and, in fact, sent an email to members 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.”
The Times reported that at least 91 officers in the Southeast Division and 31 in the Southwest Division called in sick. Unusually high numbers were also reported in the 77th and Foothill divisions.
But Moore and LAPD union President Craig Lally both told the paper the vast majority of officers scheduled to work over the weekend showed up for their shifts.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)