Italy: Hundreds of police face probe after 'going sick'

- Italian minister launches investigation after 767 officers all take sick leave ahead of New Year celebrations

By John Phillips

ROME (AA) - More than 700 police officers in the municipality of Campidoglio in Rome are facing investigation after they all "went sick" on New Year's Eve.

Government inspectors were due to arrive at Campidoglio city hall in the Italian capital on Monday as part of a crackdown launched by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi after 85 percent of the city's police force who were due on duty took sick leave ahead of the arrival of 2015.

 A total of 767 of the 905-strong municipal police force ordered to be on duty on Dec. 31 failed to show up for work, with 571, or 75 percent, calling-in sick while others claimed they were giving blood.

Inspectors from the Civil Service ministry were dispatched by Public Function Minister Marianna Madia to interrogate the absentee officers after Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi called for "seriousness" and quipped that the police officers' mass sickness was unusual for "a country where people are cured of Ebola".

 Renzi said new legal reforms making it easier to fire public servants would be introduced next month.

 Madia said there would be "disciplinary action" to "hit the irresponsible people" as opposition parties claimed the 85 percent absenteeism rate on Dec. 31 was "an affair concocted by the media" and the Italian Confederation of Workers' Trade Unions (CISL) said Rome mayor Ignazio Marino should resign for calling for the offending officers to be sacked.

- 'No justification'

The Rome police force also has launched an internal inquiry headed by Deputy Commanding Officer Raffaella Modafferi.

Deputy Mayor Luigi Nieri said the first officers who face questioning by inspectors were 44 policemen "who provided no justification for absence from the shifts on the night of New Year's Eve".

"Obviously the overall figure of 85 percent absence is unacceptable and has to be investigated in general," he said.

However, police trade union leader Mauro Cordova attacked mayor Marino over the probe and said he should resign "if he really loves Rome".

CISL spokesman Giancarlo Cosentino said: "The mayor continues to sling mud at what he does not understand."

Claudio DI Bernardino, an official from the Italian General Confederation of Labor added: "Instead of promoting discussions to find the right solution the mayor threatens sackings."

www.aa.com.tr/en

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