Atlanta, GA – Countless Atlanta police officers failed to show up to work the dayshift on Thursday after most of the city’s police force walked off the job Wednesday night after former Atlanta Police Officer Garrett Rolfe was charged with murder.
Police union sources told The Police Tribune that they didn’t have any formal numbers on attendance for June 18 yet.
However, they confirmed rumors that more than 500 of Atlanta’s 911 calls went unanswered overnight.
The Atlanta Police Department pushed back against assertions that there were not enough police officers working in the city on Thursday.
“The Atlanta Police Department is able to respond effectively to 911 calls. Please don’t hesitate to call if you have an emergency,” the department tweeted on Thursday morning.
The Atlanta Police Department is able to respond effectively to 911 calls. Please don’t hesitate to call if you have an emergency.
— Atlanta Police Department (@Atlanta_Police) June 18, 2020
Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard announced 11 charges against former Officer Rolfe during a press conference on Wednesday.
Howard charged the former police officer with seven felonies, including murder, for fatally shooting 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks who was firing a Taser at him.
The district attorney also charged Atlanta Police Officer Devin Brosnan with three felonies but said that he had agreed to turn state’s witness and testify against former Officer Rolfe.
His attorneys quickly debunked that rumor and said Officer Brosnan had neither turned against his former colleague nor agreed to plead guilty to any charges himself.
Don Samuel, a lawyer for Officer Devin Brosnan, says his client has not agreed to be a state’s witness, as District Attorney Paul Howard said, or to plead guilty to the charges. #RayshardBrooks
— Bill Rankin (@ajccourts) June 17, 2020
The Police Tribune confirmed that officers were walking off the job Wednesday night with International Brotherhood of Police Southeast Regional Director Vince Champion.
The police department tried to deny the walkout was happening, but admitted that an unusually high number of officers had called out sick.
“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 said in a statement.
The hashtag #BlueFlu trended overnight into Thursday morning on social media.
A “Blue Flu” is the colloquial term for an unofficial police strike.
Breaking: Sources confirm Atlanta Police officers in zone 6 have walked out. Sources say they drove back to their precinct, turned in their keys and went home. Officers in zone 3 are allegedly doing the same. @CBS46 #ContinuingCoverage #Atlanta #BlueFlu pic.twitter.com/kgLuNwDalP
— shon gables cbs46 (@shongables) June 18, 2020
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms told CNN late Wednesday night that the city would be okay.
“There’s a lot happening in our cities, and our police officers are receiving the brunt of it, quite frankly,” Bottoms said.
The mayor said that the city had kept their commitment to officers by giving them a raise and said “we expect that our officers will keep their commitment to our communities” despite admitting morale on the police force was down ten-fold, CNN reported.
“We do have enough officers to cover us through the night,” she said. “Our streets won’t be any less safe because of the number of officers who called out, but it is just my hope again that our officers will remember the commitment that they made when they held up their hand and they were sworn in as police officers.”
Champion said Atlanta police officers have had enough.
“They’re just fed up,” Champion told CNN. “I mean, their mayor has come out and said everything that they used to do with use of force is not valid — ‘Don’t do it’ — so I don’t know how we defend ourselves when people want to fight us,” he said.
On Wednesday night, he told The Police Tribune what he knew about the ongoing situation.
“We don’t know the exact number – I’ve heard different stories. But we’ve heard that in at least three zones, the officers have actually walked out – we don’t know the number. We‘ve heard that in one precinct, the officers are in the precinct building but will not come out unless an officer calls for assistance,” Champion told The Police Tribune.
But he made it very clear that the police union had nothing to do with the walkout, and said it hadn’t been planned.
“It’s really important to understand that the union did not call for what the officers are doing right now,” Champion clarified. “I’d love to be able to say we did, but we can’t call for that because if you do a ‘Blue Flu’ or something like that and walk away from your job – that can get you fired. The union would never ask for this. What you have is a group of officers who are fed up. They have tried every way – they tried the nice way, if you will. They tried to wait for an investigation. The GBI is still investigating this – why would Paul Howard think his investigation would trump the state investigation?”
“The DA’s office is going after us and we are not going to stand for it anymore, so officers just left – and I think that speaks more to it than if it were an organized thing,” Champion said. “This wasn’t organized. This didn’t start happening until after the press conference when these officers saw what was happening to one of their own.”