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Several Chicago Police officers could face suspension or worse for abusing the department's medical leave policy.
The Medical Integrity Unit, created in 2009 by then-Supt. Jody Weis, is investigating about 1,800 cases and found that 70 officers also face disciplinary action.
One of the most egregious cases, reported in the Chicago Sun-Times, was that of an officer who went to the Dominican Republic while on sick leave.
The officer is one of 14 who could be fired, while another 19 face potential suspension for violating the department's policy.
The police contract allows for 365 sick days every two years. About half of the force, the FOP said, doesn't use any of them, adding that the cases of abuse are few and far between.
"If you are going to go after the medical roll abusers, we are 100 percent behind you. Our guys working the street want to see that done. Most of them are hardworking brothers and sisters just doing their job," said FOP First Vice-President Bill Dougherty.
Still, clearing out the abuse and changing the policy are sure ways to save the city some money, city leaders said.
"It’s definitely a few million dollars that we can save. But we have to chip away at this thing. If a person is genuinely sick, we need to make sure that person gets the sick time he deserves so he can get well and get back to work," said Ald. Anthony Beale (9th).
Mayor Rahm Emanuel said it's something he's willing to look at.
"I’m looking forward to working with the [Fraternal Order of Police] to bring the necessary reforms that are true to the work force and true to the tax payers who will have to pay the bill," he said at an event announcing that Chicago-based SeatonCorp was bringing 400 new jobs to the city. "A few individuals who are abusing it are ruining it for the others."
Emanuel's hand-picked police superintendent doesn't necessarily agree that the policy needs to amended, just better managed.
"I just think that we need to manage it, and that's what this unit actually does. It helps us manage the fact that sometimes people are going to try and take advantage of [the policy]," Supt. Garry McCarthy said Wednesday after the department's monthly awards ceremony.
McCarthy agreed with the mayor that any changes would have to go through negotiations with the FOP.
The Medical Integrity Unit was first discussed in 2004 after police officers racked up more than 250,000 medical days, an average of 18.5 days for each officer, in 2002.
The investigation affects a very small percentage of the Chicago Police Department, made up of more than 13,000 sworn officers in the city.