Numerous rumors circulated on social media Wednesday claiming that Atlanta police officers were walking off the job after learning of the felony murder charge against fellow officer Garrett Rolfe in the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks.
But the department said the cops were merely suffering from a case of the Blue Flu, which is when cops call in sick in droves to protest any attempt of accountability.
In this case, the Blue Flu protest began after Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard announced 11 charges against Rolfe in the shooting death of Brooks that took place in a Wendy’s parking lot as police were attempting to arrest him for DUI.
The charges sent shock waves throughout the department because Rolfe had fired his gun after Brooks had fired a taser at him. But Howard said Rolfe should have known Brooks was no longer a threat because not only had the taser already been fired twice, making it unusable, but Brooks was spreading the distance between himself and the cop as he continued running away.
After the charges were announced, numerous Twitter accounts claimed that Atlanta police officers were walking out as well as refusing to answer dispatch.
Comedian Amiri King wrote that officers in zones 3, 6, and 7 turned in their keys and quit.
However, the Atlanta Police Department has 6 zones it patrols. Within those 6 zones, there are around 500,000 residents.
Steve Deace, a conservative American talk-show host, took to Twitter claiming he received an email from an Atlanta police officer.
Deace quoted the email:
“ATLANTA POLICE OFFICERS ARE REFUSING TO ANSWER THE RADIO AND WALKING OFF OF THE JOB. THE COUNTY CAN GO SCREW THEMSELVES. IF YOU WANT A SOCIETY WITHOUT POLICE WE’LL GIVE YOU ONE. LET IT BURN!”
There were other tweets from former law enforcement and others, claiming that there was a walkout, but both the Atlanta Police Department and Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms released a statement disputing the claim.
According to Atlanta Police Department Twitter:
“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.”
Mayor Bottoms said, according to CNN:
“WE DO HAVE ENOUGH OFFICERS TO COVER US THROUGH THE NIGHT. 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.”
Neither Mayor Bottoms or Atlanta Police Department revealed how many officers called in sick.
The shooting took place on June 12 after police were called to Wendy’s about a man who had passed out in his car while waiting in the drive-through lane.
Police woke Brooks up and had him conduct a breathalyzer which he failed with a .108, which is just above the .08 legal limit. However, when they attempted to handcuff him, he began resisting and he eventually broke free with a cop’s taser in his hand.
Prosecutors say Brooks fired the taser at Rolfe when the cop was about ten feet behind him but by the time Rolfe pulled out his gun and fired, Brooks was just over 18 feet away.
After shooting Brooks in the back twice, Rolfe exclaimed, “I got him!”
Instead of administering aid to Brooks, as required by departmental policy, Rolfe kicked him. Rolfe also violated department policy by firing his taser at Brooks while chasing him.
Officer Devin Brosnan has also been charged with aggravated assault for standing there and not providing aid to Brooks. He has come forward and agreed to testify against Rolfe.
In 2017 when New York City police officers staged a Blue Flu work stoppage to protest public scrutiny, reports of major crime declined, according to the Los Angeles Times, demonstrating that perhaps cops were not needed nearly as much as they think they are needed.