'Blue Flu' protest leaders unknown, and more region news

'Blue Flu' protest leaders unknown, and more region news

July 12th, 2014 by Wire Service in Local - Breaking News

Retired and active Memphis firefighters, off-duty police officers and their families gather in the Hall of Mayors, where Mayor A.C. Wharton was speaking in Memphis on Tuesday, July 8, 2014.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

MEMPHIS

"Blue Flu" protest leaders unknown

No one has stepped forward as a leader of city police officers and firefighters who have called in sick to protest changes to their health insurance benefits, complicating efforts by Memphis officials to respond to the mass sickout.

That anonymity is making it difficult for the city to apply potential strategies to end the so-called "Blue Flu" action, such as going to court to seek an injunction or punishing the strikers, according to The Commercial Appeal.

City Chief Administrative Officer George Little said he still doesn't know who's organizing the mass sickout.

Memphis police spokeswoman Karen Rudolph said 441 officers were out sick on Friday morning, down from a high of 557 on Tuesday. The force has about 2,200 officers.

Discussions about the work stoppage continued Thursday with a conference call involving city and labor leaders, according to City Council member Myron Lowery.

The changes to the health insurance benefits are aimed at helping shore up the city's troubled pension program.

Cuts approved by the City Council have led to protests from city workers, including police and fire staff, who say they cannot afford the changes and feel betrayed by a city they have served and protected. City leaders say public safety has not been compromised due to the "Blue Flu."

KNOXVILLE

Bear hit, killed by car on I-40

Knoxville police say a bear struck and killed by a car early Friday morning on Interstate 40 was likely the same bear seen wandering in neighborhoods the day before.

Police were alerted at 3:39 a.m. of a collision between a vehicle and the bear on westbound I-40. The driver was not hurt.

Knoxville police spokesman Darrell DeBusk told the Knoxville News Sentinel that police could not say for sure it was the same bear seen earlier, but it likely is.

The bear had been seen multiple times Thursday as it moved through neighborhoods in the area of Papermill Road, Kirby Road and Lonas Drive.

Officials with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency opted to leave the bear alone Thursday because it was not a threat to people.