Ponchatoula Police Deparment
Ponchatoula Police Deparment

Blue Flu: Ponchatoula police officers upset with mayor over low pay; “We only want what’s fair”

PONCHATOULA — The Ponchatoula Police Department was hit by the ‘blue flu’ on Friday, with all police officers assigned to work calling out sick.

UWK spoke with several officers within the department who expressed frustration with Ponchatoula Mayor “Bob” Zabbia regarding pay issues within the department.

“In Ponchatoula, police officers make far less than city hall workers and it’s not fair,” a unified statement from Ponchatoula police officers provided to UWK stated. “The mayor isn’t following the city’s compensation plan released in 2022. He gave his favorite employees, including himself, big raises while leaving police officers far behind. For example, he pays 60% of city hall public works employees above the recommended rate. But only 15% of police officers get that. It’s discrimination. Our city can afford to pay police officers according to its own compensation plan, and it should. We only want what’s fair.”

The officers’ statement refers to a study on city worker pay released in 2022. UWK has not independently verified this report, but sources suggest that it indicates the majority of police officers are underpaid despite city hall workers generally receiving fair compensation.

Ponchatoula Police Chief Bry Layrisson stated that he was informed by the night shift supervisor that no day shift employees reported to work as scheduled on Friday. He mentioned that the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office is providing deputies to assist in patrolling the city, and reserve officers have also been assigned to help.

Additionally, the Hammond Police will provide assistance for this weekend’s St. Joseph School Spring Fair.

“I believe this episode of “blue flu” is related to payroll issues,” Layrisson said. “Our officers are disappointed in city hall because they are underpaid. They make far less than other city employees, and they are fed up with the mayor ignoring the city consultant’s compensation plan.”

UWK reached out to Zabbia’s office for comment. While the mayor reiterated the plan for police protection during the sickout, he did not have any further comment.

Sources within city hall informed UWK that some council members are considering convening an emergency meeting to address the issue as early as Monday.

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