By CAROLYN THOMPSON, Associated Press Writer
BUFFALO, N.Y. — Two dozen police officers are accused of coming down with a case of "blue flu" — a sick-out in protest of their frozen wages.
Seventeen officers from the same district who called in sick between Wednesday and Friday were ordered Saturday to appear in court and explain their actions. Seven others were served with the order Monday, city officials said.
Officers could lose two days' pay for each day out or be found in contempt of a court order prohibiting the action, Corporation Counsel Alisa Lukasiewicz said.
Police Benevolent Association President Robert Meegan defended the officers. "These officers called in sick because they were sick," Meegan said. "That's the bottom line."
Mayor Byron Brown said police officers were warned about falsely calling out sick for work while rumors of a job action swirled last week.
The city on Friday obtained a temporary restraining order barring any police officer from participating in a work stoppage after two-thirds of officers, about 17 people, called in sick in the Northwest District. In the four other districts combined, 26 officers called in during the same period, Commissioner H. McCarthy Gipson said in court papers. The city employs about 800 officers.
"It is not mere coincidence that 17 officers in the same district would collectively and suddenly take ill the same week of the rumored 'blue flu,'" Lukasiewicz said.
Police are unhappy with a 3-year-old wage freeze. Officers had been scheduled to receive 3.4 percent raises in each of the last three years.
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The alleged sickout came as thousands of college basketball fans and players were in Buffalo for the NCAA Basketball Tournament and St. Patrick's Day festivities.