Former Atlanta PD Officer Garrett Rolfe, and suspended Atlanta PD Officer Devin Brosnan surrendered today in Atlanta to face charges filed against them yesterday by Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard in connection with the shooting death on June 12, 2020, of Tayshard Brooks in the parking lot of an Atlanta-area Wendy’s fast food restaurant.
Brosnan was released after posting a $50,000 “signature bond”, which simply means he signed an agreement to pay $50,000 if he violates any term or condition of his release pending trial.
At this point Rolfe is being held without bail, although there are reports that he was moved to nearby Gwinnett County rather than have him remain in Fulton County’s jail. He’s scheduled to make an initial court appearance at 12:00 noon on Friday, but that is expected to done via video conference system.
Interim Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant acknowledged to reporters that sick calls began Wednesday night and continued Thursday. It’s not clear how many officers have failed to report for duty, but Bryant admitted that members of the Atlanta PD are upset that Rolfe has been charged with murder in connection with his efforts to arrest Brooks after it was determined that Brooks had been driving while intoxicated. Brooks admitted to driving where he was found sleeping – with the car running and sitting the drive-thru lane of the Wendy’s. “Some are angry. Some are fearful. Some are confused on what we do in this space. Some may feel abandoned,” Bryant said. “But we are there to assure them that we will continue to move forward and get through this.”
First reports of Atlanta PD Officers walking off the job popped up on social media Wednesday afternoon and evening after DA Howard announced the filing of charges at a press conference earlier in the day. Several people in the Atlanta area posted on their social media accounts that police radio traffic in certain precincts was unusually quiet, with dispatchers calls to patrol units going out without a response.
There are reports on Thursday afternoon and evening that the “sick out” continued overnight and into the morning on Thursday, as well as Thursday afternoon shifts.
Police officers are prohibited by state law from striking in Georgia, so leaders of the organized labor unions representing Atlanta police officers must be careful what they say, as they cannot be seen as encouraging an illegal organized work stoppage.
But Vince Champion, southeast regional director for the International Brotherhood of Police Officers told reporters on Thursday, “It’s not clear how many officers have called out, but just one officer showed up for work Thursday morning in Zone 6, which covers much of Atlanta’s east side and which several dozen are assigned to patrol.” There are only 6 patrol zones that encompass the City of Atlanta.
Atlanta officers are walking off their shifts or not responding to calls because they feel “abandoned, betrayed, used in a political game. What they realized is that the city, meaning the mayor and the police department, does not support them” Champion told The Associated Press.
Champion said he’s heard from several officers that they fear using force to protect themselves will get them fired or arrested.
When DA Howard announced the charges on Wednesday, he did so based largely on the investigation conducted by his own investigators, and not by investigators of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, a state agency that is often involved in investigations of officer-involved shooting incidents in Georgia. GBI put out a public statement shortly after the press conference stating that it was not informed in advance that there would be a press conference, it was not consulted on the charges that were filed, and it had not yet completed its investigation of the shooting incident.
Interim Atlanta PD Chief Bryant also stated on Thursday that he was surprised by how quickly the Fulton County DA acted, and that the Atlanta PD had no advanced notice of the press conference or what was going to be announced.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, issued a strong message of support for police on Thursday, without addressing the shooting of Brooks specifically. “We remember those who died in the line of duty and their families, who still mourn their passing,” he said in a video his office posted to social media.