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Text Message Urges Chicago Police Officers To Call In Sick, Limit Arrests In A ‘Blue Flu’

CHICAGO (CBS) — Along with a spike in violence in Chicago this past weekend comes with a new push by members of the police union to get officers on the street to stand down – and even stay home.

As CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov reported Monday night, it all started with a text message.

The text told officers not to volunteer to work on days off, to limit arrests, and to call in sick to make a statement to Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the City Council about how much officers are needed.

The bottom line – it is calling for what is known as “blue flu.”

The head of the Fraternal Order of Police is not denouncing the move. But the mayor calls it stupid.

This weekend was one of Chicago’s bloodiest in years, with at least 102 people shot between 5 p.m. Friday and 5 a.m. Monday, and 13 of them killed.

As police officers were called to shooting after shooting, sources told us they were also getting a text encouraging them to call in sick.

“The FOP Lodge 7 cannot advocate for it because of the contract,” the text message reads. But, it adds, “individual officers can.”

The end goal of the blue flu is to get the mayor and the command staff to support the rank and file.

John Catanzara, the newly-elected president of the FOP Lodge 7 representing the CPD’s officers, said in response to the text: “It was not about a blue flu. I don’t know where that originated from, but it did not originate from the lodge.”

But Catanzara did not exactly dismiss the text either – pointing to recent weeks of canceled days off and mandatory 12-hour shifts stemming from protests and looting.

“We told people, if they’re canceling your days off this weekend, I would encourage you to consider not reporting to your canceled off-day,” Catanzara said.

The text was sent at a time when tensions between police and the city’s Black and Brown residents are sky high, and it also wants officers to limit arrests.

“Just answer your calls and back each other up,” the text states. “Other than that, zero.”

Kozlov asked Catanzara if the members were being told to back off and do the bare minimum.

“Am I telling them?” Catanzara said. “We’re probably going to have a press release later by the end of this week – not necessarily directly to that, but I would just encourage every officer to be very careful and cautious about what you do.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s reaction was, “When something stupid like that happens to basically tell officers to abandon their post, that is the height of dereliction of duty.”

This is just the latest flare-up between Mayor Lightfoot and the FOP, as both sides work to negotiate a police contract. Contract critics, including the mayor, say the current agreement has too many provisions protecting problem officers.

“Well clearly, our job is to defend our members, so yes, those provisions were fought for over the course of decades,” Catanzara said. “We’re not just going to willy-nilly give them up.”

The city’s contract with the Fraternal Order of Police expired almost three years ago. Catanzara said he expects to have more information and potentially more movement on contract negotiations after July 4.

Meanwhile, the mayor says there is no evidence at this point that more officers than usual have called in sick.

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