It is difficult to know how many officers refused to show up for their Wednesday night shift. The police department has refused to answer specific questions about the non-presentation and the mayor did not release precise figures, when she spoke to reporters Wednesday night.
“We have enough members to cover us through the night”, the Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D) told CNN. “Our streets will not be less safe because the number of officers who called out to them.”
The Atlanta Police Department has confirmed a greater than normal number of staff who are absent on a Wednesday night, but denied any mass strike, in response to criminal charges against the two men involved in the fatal shooting of Brooks, whose death sparked new protests against racism and police brutality.
The suggestions that several of the officers of each area had left the place of work were inaccurate. The department is facing a larger number of calls with the future shift. We have sufficient resources to maintain operations and remain able to respond to incidents.
— Atlanta Police Department (@Atlanta_Police) On the 18th of June 2020
Bottom added that the city can count on the support of other agencies of law enforcement in the region.
“We have other partners in the metropolitan region, including the support of the state and the county and other jurisdictions,” she said. “So, we’ll be fine.”
Atlanta had already been shaken for several weeks by the Black Lives Matter protests and sorrow over the alleged racist murder of Ahmaud Arbery in the County of Glynn, Georgia. Tensions with the police flared on Friday when two officers responded to a call claiming Brooks was asleep at the wheel while he was parked in a Wendy’s drive-through.
Brooks initially cooperated with a field sobriety test, but a fight broke out when two officers attempted to arrest him. Brooks grabbed an officer’s Taser and began to run away. Prosecutors allege former agent Garrett Rolfe then shot Brooks in the back, said: “I said to him,” and then kicks Brooks as he lay on the asphalt. His partner, Officer Devin Brosnan, stood on Brooks arm after the shooting, prosecutors have said.
Fulton County District Attorney Paul L. Howard Jr, has announced murder and other charges Rolfe on Wednesday. Pierce Brosnan faces aggravated assault and other charges.
Hours after the charges were announced, some Atlanta police officers have started to call just before the night shift began. A police union spokesman confirmed the protest at NBC News, but said the union had not organized an official release. Throughout the night of Wednesday, the officers would have called in sick, has refused all calls with the exception of those who ask for backup and went radio-silent.
“This is not an organized thing, this is not a blue flu, this is not a strike, it’s nothing like that,” Vince Champion, a spokesman for the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, told NBC News. “What it actually is is the agents are protesting that they have had enough and they don’t want to deal with it any longer.”
The “blue flu”, that Champion refused, is a kind of de facto police strike, in which a group of officers simultaneously call in sick. Essential state employees, police and first responders, are legally prohibited from actually walking on the work in many countries.
Champion added that many officers felt prosecutors had not publicly shared that there is sufficient evidence to back up the accusations against Rolfe, in part because the district attorney has not released a video that appears to show the former officer kick Brooks, rather than the entire video itself.
As the officers began the cancellation of their shift on the Wednesday evening, the President, Trump has joined the fray to criticize the district attorney of the decision. In an interview with Fox News on Wednesday night, Trump has called the shooting “very, very sad,” but then suggested that Brooks was at fault.
“I thought it was a terrible situation, but you can’t resist a police officer,” he said on Sean Hannity’s show. The president has repeated a claim made by Rolfe’s defence lawyer, saying that the officer believed that he had seen a flash and heard a gunshot before shooting on Brooks.
“I hope he receives a fair treatment because the police have not been treated fairly in our country,” Trump said. “But again, you can not resist a police officer, like that. And they ended up in a terrible disagreement and look how it ended. Very bad. Very bad.”
The wheels of justice have moved surprisingly fast in Atlanta during the last week. Just two days after Brooks ‘ death, the video of the fatal encounter was released to the public and Atlanta mayor had already called for Rolfe to be fired. By the end of Sunday, Rolfe had been shot, pierce Brosnan has been placed on administrative duty, and the former police chief Erika Shields had resigned.
Less than a week after the incident, Rolfe and pierce Brosnan have been accused of a crime.
The fast pace comes as the continuation of the Black Lives Matter protests to demand police reforms in the wake of George Floyd died, after a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes. Although the action fast, in Atlanta, has been welcomed by rights activists and hailed as a victory for the militants, some in the police department have decried the fast-track process.
The bottom said that the morale in the Atlanta police department has been at the lowest, maybe even more so than in other jurisdictions in the face of scrutiny and criticism during the last three weeks of events.
“The thing I’m most worried about is how we repair the morale of our police forces,” Low said on CNN, “and how do we ensure that our communities are safe when they interact with our police officers.”