Interim Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant held a press conference on June 20 to address concerns about an officer sickout – or “blue flu – in protest of the charges brought against officers in the Rayshard Brooks case.
Social media began circulating reports on June 18 that officers had staged a walkout after Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard brought murder and aggravated assault charges against the two officers involved in the June 12 shooting and killing of Brooks during a DUI arrest at the Wendy’s on University Avenue.
“It is factual that over the past few days we’ve seen a higher than average number of officers call in sick, which caused us to shift resources to insure proper coverage,” Bryant said.
He said officers were questioning their training, felt challenged and attacked, and had unease about colleagues being criminally charged so quickly. However, he reassured the public and offered a warning to criminals.
“If you call 911, a police officer will respond,” Bryant said. “We haven’t given up on the city that we love and we ask that you not give up on us. But I want it to be clear, we will not tolerate lawlessness and injustice in this city.”
Bryant said he will create teams within the Atlanta Police Department’s office of professional standards to investigate “complex complaints” and begin reviewing its training program to expand sections on de-escalation, implicit bias, and peer intervention.
“We are not a perfect department and are always working toward improvement. We are not an department for flagrant abuse, hate or injustice,” Bryant said. “We encourage due process for those we encounter and for ourselves.”
Bryant stepped into the role of chief just over a week ago after Chief Erika Shields resigned in the wake of the shooting and killing of Brooks.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms told CNN last week that morale at APD was low, while the Atlanta Police Foundation used private donations to give each officer a $500 bonus for their extra hours worked during the weeks of protests.