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Atlanta police appear to be ‘calling out’ of work after cop charged with murder of Rayshard Brooks

Atlanta Police cruiser. (Daniel X. O'Neil, Wikimedia Commons/Released)
June 18, 2020

The Atlanta Police Department (APD) in Georgia has confirmed it saw a higher number of officers calling out of work than usual on Wednesday following the announcement of felony murder charges against Officer Garrett Rolfe in the fatal shooting of Rayshard Brooks.

APD spokesman Sgt. John Chafee denied previously reported claims of officers simply walking off the job, but did confirm an increase in officers calling out Wednesday, although he did not specify how many had called out of work, 11 Alive News reported.

“Earlier suggestions that multiple officers from each zone had walked off the job were inaccurate. The department is experiencing a higher than usual number of call outs with the incoming shift. We have enough resources to maintain operations & remain able to respond to incidents,” APD also said in a Wednesday night tweet.

Vince Champion, an Atlanta police union spokesman also discussed the rumored police backlash after their fellow officer was charged.

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“NEW: ATL Police Union spokeman Vince Champion tells me that officers around the city are protesting the charges announced against officers Rolfe and Brosnan. He says they’re walking off the job, not responding to calls unless backup is needed, and going silent on the radios,” NBC producer Charlie Gile tweeted. “‘This is not an organized thing, it’s not a blue flu, it’s not a strike, it’s nothing like that. What it actually is is officers protesting that they’ve had enough and they don’t want to deal with it any longer,’ Champion says.”

Gile went on to note the APD’s statement disputing the walkout claims, as well as police scanner traffic that may conflict with the APD’s assessment of its policing capabilities.

“For their part, the police department is denying these claims,” Gile tweeted. “Scanner traffic from early this morning conflicts with APD’s statement, though. ‘We are not answering 911 calls right now due to personnel issues,’ a police dispatcher said.”

Sources for CNN also claimed police were not responding to calls on Wednesday. Those sources said in three of the city’s six precincts, officers were refusing to leave their precincts unless a fellow officer required back up. That same source said more officers were expected to call out from shifts on Thursday.

The increased call outs, non-responses and rumored walkouts come after Rolfe was charged with felony murder for shooting Brooks in a Wendy’s restaurant parking lot after a scuffle. Video of the police interaction showed Rolfe and another APD Officer, Devin Brosnan, interacting with Brooks after he was found asleep behind the wheel at a Wendy’s drive-through.

In addition to the felony murder charge, Rolfe also faces five counts of aggravated assault, a single count of first-degree criminal damage to property and four counts of violation of oath by an officer, according to charging documents reported by the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Brosnan was also charged with a count of aggravated assault and three counts of violation of oath.

In a video of the incident, Rolfe and Brosnan can be seen administering a breathalyzer test for Brooks and asking him what he had been drinking that night. After concluding he had too much to drink, the officers attempted to arrest Brooks and a scuffle occurred.

Other video of the arrest shows Brooks had pulled a taser from one of the officer’s belts and broke away from the officers. Brooks attempted to flee from the officers, with Rolfe chasing and firing his taser. Brooks can be seen turning back and firing the stolen taser before Rolfe pulled his handgun and fired, killing Brooks.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms told CNN she believes morale is down “tenfold” and said “there’s a lot happening in our cities, and our police officers are receiving the brunt of it, quite frankly.”

She said that despite the low morale, she believes there are enough resources to handle policing and said “we expect that our officers will keep their commitment to our communities.”