The News-Democrat by Carolyn P. Smith - January 3, 2011
The president of Fraternal Order of Police Union Lodge 126 says he believes the men who called in sick Friday were actually sick and not participating in a work stoppage as a letter hand delivered to most of the officers said. Nearly all of the scheduled police officers on the 3 to 11 p.m. shift called off sick one hour before they were scheduled to report to work. The officers called in sick the day after the City Council approved the layoffs of 16 police officers effective as of Saturday. Kendall Perry, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 126, said the men have been under a lot of stress with the mandatory furloughs and the threat of the layoffs hanging over their heads for a while. And, then he said the weather conditions have been changing, which could have caused some of the men to have flulike symptoms. "If they were sick, they were within their rights to call off. I believe they were sick," he said. Perry said the men have sick days and if they are sick they can call off without fear of retaliation from members of the police department. He said he doesn't believe the men were participating in a work stoppage. Councilwoman Emeka Jackson, Councilman Robert Eastern III, Councilman Delbert Marion and Mayor Alvin L. Parks voted to accept the city's budget that included laying off 16 police officers, one full- and one part-time telecommunicator, one jailer and four public works workers. Also, 13 firefighters, who are already laid off will not be brought back. The hand delivered letter from the higher-ups in the department gave the men one hour to report to work or face possible termination for participating in a work stoppage. Some of the officers said they believe they were being harassed while they were off sick. Perry said, "If the officers were sick, they cannot be made to go in to work." Police Chief Lenzie Stewart said that the letters were delivered. And, he said those who were at home as the policy requires and not engaging in some outside entertainment would be fine. But, those who violated the policy would have a problem. Lieutenants, captains and the police chief were out on the streets Friday. And, most of the first shift (11 p.m.-7 a.m.) consisted of officers who were part of the layoff. So, the higher-ranking officers had to work that shift and were already scheduled to do so, Stewart said. Contact reporter Carolyn P. Smith at 239-2503.