'Blue flu' hits with contract vote near

August 16, 1997


Staff Writer

Six Hagerstown police officers called in sick for work Friday afternoon in what Chief Dale Jones called a "blue flu."

The reported action comes one day after a dozen officers said they would no longer serve as field training officers, Jones said. Field training officers are police who, in addition to their regular duties, help train new recruits on the job, Jones said.

The officers are working under a contract that expired June 30, he said.

Jones said some officers were kept on duty Friday past the time they would normally go home to make up some of the lost manpower.

Capt. Robert Hart said supervisors also had been called in to fill out the shift.

Nine officers, not including supervisors, were scheduled for the shift.

Union officials said they had not called for a sickout.

"I'm the president of the union, and I'm sitting here," said Detective Carroll Braun, president of Local 3373.


"We would never endorse something like that," Braun said.

He said the city's latest contract offer was scheduled to be voted on Tuesday night by the union's 62 members.

Officer David Long, a member of the union's governing board, had said negotiations were not going well.

The main sticking points are retirement benefits and wages.

Police officers want the right to retire with a full pension after 25 years, while city negotiators want them to continue putting in 30 years.

Braun said the latest offer did not include 25-year retirement.

Jones said it's the first time a sickout has occurred at the force in several years.

He said no one from the union had contacted him regarding the sickout, but said he was assuming that that was what it was.

City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said the city had worked out a plan for covering the community with police protection, including notifying the Washington County Sheriff's Department and the Maryland State Police.

Zimmerman said any action by the city on the reported sickout would depend on how long it lasts.

"We'll have to play it by ear and see how long they use this approach," Zimmerman said.

Darlene Strock, president of AFSCME Council 67, also said the union would never endorse a sickout by the officers, and said she had not heard of any incident.

Phone calls to Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II's home were not returned Friday night.

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