By Sandy Malone and Christopher Berg
Atlanta, GA – An Atlanta PD roll call assignment sheet has leaked out which highlights the staffing shortage faced by the department amid a “Blue Flu” outbreak.
A “Blue Flu” is the colloquial term for an unofficial police strike.
Officers have been calling-in “sick,” since it was announced Wednesday that two Atlanta police officers would be charged for the shooting death of 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks.
The city has denied that there are issues with staffing.
The city initially tweeted Wednesday denying officers were walking off the job and saying that their staffing levels were fine.
“Earlier suggestions that multiple officers from each zone had walked off the job were inaccurate,” the tweet said. “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.”
As officers failed to show up for work Thursday, the department tweeted again suggesting that everything is fine.
“The Atlanta Police Department is able to respond effectively to 911 calls. Please don’t hesitate to call if you have an emergency,” Atlanta PD tweeted.
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
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
However, Atlanta police officers and International Brotherhood of Police Southeast Regional Director Vince Champion told The Police Tribune that rumors of the walkout were all true.
Tens of thousands of people tuned into the police department’s scanner frequency to listen to hours of silence.
Champion told The Police Tribune Thursday that more than 500 of Atlanta’s 911 calls went unanswered overnight.
The department has not made any public statements about their staffing Friday as the police protest continues into its third day.
However, a roll call assignment sheet leaked out indicating the extent of the “Blue Flu.”
The Police Tribune confirmed the authenticity of this document with Atlanta police sources. The Police Tribune has also obtained an unredacted copy of the document.
Most of the officers on the sheet are marked “S/O” for Sick Out, indicating that they called in “sick.”
Only one lieutenant and one sergeant remain on the list.
The “Blue Flu” protest started following the announcement of charges against Atlanta police officers involved with the arrest and shooting of Brooks.
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 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.
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.”