There has been civil unrest in Atlanta since the killing of Ahmaud Arbery by two white men in April in a neighboring county. Then, protests turned violent in the aftermath of Minneapolis man George Floyd’s killing on May 25. The APD has been under a lot of pressure for many weeks now, and the death of Atlanta man Rayshard Brooks last week has brought things to a head.
For several days now, many Atlanta PD officers are calling in sick for their shifts after Atlanta DA Paul Howard made the stunning decision to bring charges of felony murder against officer Garret Rolfe, who shot Brooks in self-defense on June 12, 2020.
Democrat DA sends a strong message to police
Earlier in June, six officers — five of whom were African American — were criminally charged by the controversial seven-term Atlanta DA Paul Howard with various assault charges in the arrest of two African American college students during a George Floyd protest.
The students resisted arrest and were tasered by the officers. Police Chief Erika Shields defended her department at that time. She gave up defending her officers and resigned after the Rayshard Brooks shooting.
The Atlanta Police Department has 1,700 officers serving a population of 420,000 people. That is one officer per 300 people or so. The police force is majority African American, as is the city. Whatever problems the APD has, they can’t be attributed to “systemic racism.”
DA Howard’s decision to bring criminal charges against Rolfe and other officers in the last several weeks sends a strong message to the city’s police officers: Do your job and we will do our best to get you fired or put in prison or both. Police are pushing back and protesting the charges brought against their fellow cops.
In response to the DA and city leadership’s refusal to support APD, officers have begun to stage a “sick-out.” Police officers can’t strike, so they’re doing the next best thing to send a message to leadership. The city has refused to disclose how many officers have called out, but according to reports, its a significant amount, and the movement shows no signs of slowing.
Sheriff Alfonzo Williams of Burke County defended Rolfe and said the shooting of Rayshard Brooks was “completely justified” and explained that the officers involved were not malicious in their encounter with Brooks. “There’s nothing malicious or sadistic in the way these officers behaved.” The officers’ body camera footage confirms Williams’ assessment of the incident.
The Atlanta Police Foundation
Important people are starting to worry about police morale and public safety in Atlanta. Since the city refuses to back its own law enforcement officers, the Atlanta Police Foundation has stepped in.
The Foundation was so worried about the situation that they created fund that distributes $500 cash bonuses to 1,700 officers hoping to boost their morale. Even though that adds up to $850,000, it is reported that the bonuses cost the APF $2,000,000, more than twice the amount of the reported bonuses.
The Atlanta Police Foundation boasts on its home page:
Today Atlanta boasts the lowest crime rates since 1969, a world-class police force regarded as the pre-eminent police department in the southeast, and a thriving business climate with the nation’s third largest concentration of Fortune 500 companies. Atlanta is flourishing because of the unwavering commitment and investment the City, businesses and residents have made to make public safety a priority.
If the people of Atlanta expect police officers to protect public safety, they should stop voting for DA’s like Paul Howard, and start voting in leaders that will back up the police.