Police officers in Atlanta are to receive a $500 bonus Thursday, according to a report by WSB-TV Atlanta. According to the local news outlet, the bonuses come from about $2 million in funds raised by the Atlanta Police Foundation. The foundation plans to not only pay each officer a $500 bonus, but replace 20 police cars that were damaged during city protests. The foundation told WSB-TV that the bonuses serve as a thank you for the hours and the work law enforcement officers have done over the past three months.
The announcement of the distribution of these bonuses comes after several news outlets reported that Atlanta officers were walking off shifts and calling out of work following the press conference announcing the charges made against a former Atlanta officer, Garrett Rolfe, for the death of Rayshard Brooks. Rolfe was fired after fatally shooting Brooks, a Black man, twice in the back on Friday. In total, 11 charges were brought against Rolfe by Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard on Wednesday, including felony murder, five counts of aggravated assault, four counts of violating his oath of office, and one count of criminal damage to property.
Several Atlanta police officers called in sick or were unresponsive hours after the fired officer was charged with felony murder, sources within the Atlanta Police Department said, according to CNN. While the department released a statement Wednesday denying allegations that officers walked off the job, it confirmed that the department was experiencing “higher than usual” call-outs.
Social media users on Twitter dubbed the rumors of officers refusing to work due to the charges being faced by a former colleague the #BlueFlu. The department stressed on Wednesday—and again on Thursday—that despite a higher number of call-outs than usual, enough resources are available to respond to calls.
“The Atlanta Police Department is able to respond effectively to 911 calls. Please don’t hesitate to call if you have an emergency,” the statement said.
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 Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms supported the police department’s statement, reiterating that the city would still be safe. “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.” Bottoms added that “a lot” is happening in the country, with officers “receiving the brunt of it.” With a pay raise in force, officers can be expected to continue their commitment, CNN reported.
While it is unclear how many officers called in sick or did not show up for their shift following the announced charges Wednesday, the Atlanta Police Department said on Monday that eight of its officers have resigned since June 1, The Hill reported.
Brooks’ murder follows a number of cases against police brutality and comes amid nationwide protests against the brutal police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25. Activists and protestors are calling to defund the police and shift funds to community initiatives in an effort to end police brutality and excessive use of force.