On the day that Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard, a Democrat, announced a felony murder charge against former Atlanta police officer Garrett Rolfe and charges against officer Devin Brosnan for the shooting of Rayshard Brooks, a large number of Atlanta cops reportedly called out sick. Police departments in the surrounding area refused requests to supplement Atlanta police unless there was an event where a police officer required emergency assistance. The mayor has since admitted that morale "is down ten-fold" among her officers.
While Atlanta cops were calling out sick en masse, officials downplayed the reports.
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.— Atlanta Police Department (@Atlanta_Police) June 18, 2020
Atlanta Sergeant John Chafee told CBS News that "suggestions that multiple officers from each zone had walked off the job were inaccurate." Chafee did say that eight officers resigned, five were dismissed, and three retired, sometime between June 1 and June 17. Chafee did not tell CBS News how many officers had called out since charges were announced in the Brooks shooting. But Channel 2 Actions News now knows the answer.
Around 170 officers called out sick with what's being dubbed the "Blue Flu" in the hours and days immediately following the charges. Most of the "sick" officers worked in the downtown area where protests have taken place. On Friday, two days after the charges were announced, 90 officers called out sick, and half of those officers work in Zone 5, the zone encompassing the protests.
"The city’s response, I recall early on, seems like they downplayed those numbers. The public should know that’s a significant amount of police officers who did not come to work during that time period," retired Atlanta police Detective Vince Velasquez told Channel 2 Action News.
"Some officers have flatly told me that they’re afraid to go to work and to answer a call and commit to a process and feel like they’re doing the right thing, feel like they’re doing their jobs, and then face not just disciplinary action, but prosecution," Velasquez said. "This is a unique case because some of the charges that were brought up with these officers were policy violations that were turned into oath-of-office crimes that were alleged by the DA, and some of these things are completely foreign to all of us."
On the night of Jun. 12, Rayshard Brooks suddenly attacked police officers, stole a taser and pointed the weapon at police while attempting to flee on foot. Former officer Garrett Rolfe shot and killed Brooks while pursuing him on foot. Brooks had a long rap sheet that includes cruelty to children, battery, false imprisonment, and theft.