Salt Lake police patrolmen Saturday recovered from their "blue flu," a 24-hour bug that saw 100 percent of the West Division and 98 percent of the East Division out with a severe intolerance to what they said are poor working conditions and low pay.
The sickout was the first time in nine years officers have failed to show up for duty during contract negotiations."The 24-hour period's over, and they're better and back to work," said Capt. Aaron Kennard, adding that officers' attitudes also improved.
Police commanders called in off-duty officers Friday and used detectives from the traffic and youth divisions to cover for the graveyard and afternoon shifts, Kennard said.
Kennard said he had received no citizen complaints about the sickout, adding, "I don't know what they have to complain about because there was ample coverage." He said there was no decrease in police presence on the streets.
But citizens called Mayor Palmer DePaulis with encouragement. DePaulis told officers the budget cannot support requested salary and staffing increases, and he won't ask for a tax increase.
"I don't believe it (the sickout) will change the fact that there isn't any more money available,` DePaulis said Saturday. "I think it only damages their cause because people don't generally feel that's an appropriate way to protest the budget problems."
Officers last month staged informational pickets outside City Hall as DePaulis and council members hammered out a budget.
"I think people are pretty keenly aware that we've just been through a very excruciating budget process, and if there had been money available - I mean, if I can't find it and the administration can't it and the City Council can't find it and their staff can't find it, I don't know where anybody's going to find it."
The mayor reiterated his offer to renegotiate the contract in January, saying franchise tax receipts may increase this summer with higher-than-normal temperatures prompting residents to crank up the air conditioning.
And DePaulis had a word for citizens considering approving tax-limitation petitions that would limit property, income and sales taxes: "If they think that this is a serious matter . . . they have no idea what they're in for. This is simply a picnic compared to the devastating impact the tax limitation would have on us."