17 Boynton Beach police officers called out sick Tuesday

BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. - BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. - Seventeen Boynton Beach police officers called out sick from work Tuesday.
There were five officers who called out sick for the day shift and 12 for the night shift.

Boynton Beach Police Chief Jeffrey Katz sent an email to all department employees saying five officers from one shift and 12 from another did not show up for work.

Katz says the department pulled officers from other units to fill the void.

Katz said in a tweet the department was "staffed accordingly." "Our primary objectives at this point are officer safety and our responsiveness to the public," Katz's email said in part.

"While inconvenient to all of us, this strategy represents our best opportunity to ensure both," the email went on to say.

The officers have been in contract negotiations.

Dozens of officers protested outside a Boynton Beach City Commission meeting in June.

Statement from Boynton Beach police Wednesday morning:

All Road Patrol officers who were scheduled to work at 0430 hours and 0700 hours (Wednesday) reported to duty. We are continuing our alternative deployment strategy, and specialty unit personnel will augment  road patrol today and conduct high visibility patrols throughout the city during their tour of duty. We will continue to evaluate the situation and adapt as needed. The safety of our officers and the public is paramount, and at no point over the past 24 hours has it been at risk. We want our community to know that their police department is here, fully functioning and serving them as we do each and every day.

The president of the Palm Beach County Police Benevolent Association denied the sick call-ins were related to those contact talks.

"The PBA doesn't authorize, condone any abuses of sick leave if that's what's going on.  And if people are able to go to work, we encourage them to go to work," explained the association's attorney, Gary Lippman.

Officers that were scheduled to show up for work at the first three shifts Wednesday did so, said Boynton Beach police spokeswoman Stephanie Slater.  

She says they are still on "alternative deployment" right now, as they were Tuesday night, when the 17 officers called in sick.

This deployment is in effect when the department takes officers from specialty units and uses them to fill voids on the road patrols.

Local residents have had a variety of reactions, with many people responding to the news on the Boynton Beach Police Department's Facebook page.

Gerard Harris is the owner of Tom's Place, a barbecue restaurant a few blocks from the police department.  He says many of his customers are famous faces, locals and Boynton Beach Police officers.

"They do need to be paid a little bit better than what they've been paid.  I'm all for that, because they don't only protect my family, they protect their families, they protect they community, the owners, the business owners," Harris said.

Others in the area say they are more concerned with public safety, and not with details of the contract negotiations.

"I don't too much care for it, but I feel like it's not a big deal.  Police is still police as long as I don't get pulled over, you know," said Alvin Daniels, who has lived in Boynton Beach for most of his life.

Commissioner David Merker says he is concerned with how the back-and-forth between the city and the officers might be altering public image, and marring the public's view of the area.  

"It's a matter of the style and the professionalism of both sides," Merker said, calling the situation "childish."

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