ATLANTA — A career police officer who has served the city of Atlanta for nearly two decades says he no longer feels safe doing his job and is now preparing to call it quits.
The Atlanta police officer told Channel 2′s Michael Seiden that he made his decision after watching prosecutors charge the two officers involved in the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks.
One officer told Seiden that it's a daily struggle to get out of bed and drive to work in the morning.
Now, another officer, who happens to be a well-respected veteran of the police force, is risking his own career by speaking with Channel 2 Action News about the major problems that he sees within his department.
“Morale is completely down. The look on people’s faces is from disgust, to worry, to not even sure if they’re going to show back up the next day,” the 20-year Atlanta Police Department veteran said, asking not to disclose his identity.
The officer is still on the job, working to protect and serve the residents of Atlanta.
“Inside the department, we have no direction. We’re being told that we need to stand together and continue to work and honor our commitment to the city, but we don’t know what direction we’re supposed to be going in,” the officer said.
His sharp criticism is directed at city and county leaders — specifically, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard, who in the last month filed criminal charges against eight officers, including former APD Officer Garrett Rolfe, who is now charged with felony murder in the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks.
“It’s unfortunate that someone lost their life. But as police officers, we’re going to do what we do, how we’re trained and what we’re covered under state law. When you fear of your life, it’s easy to Monday-morning quarterback someone,” the officer told Seiden. “He will be cleared. He will win his case. He’ll also win a large lawsuit with the city. They absolutely abandoned him and hung him out to drive for whatever political reasons.”
In an interview with Channel 2 anchor Justin Farmer, Bottoms defended her position.
“I think we’re seeing that with our officers, so I understand it. I empathize with it, but I just hope that our officers remember the oath that they made to our city, and that was to protect our citizens, and it’s not always going to be easy,” Bottoms said.
After Howard announced the charges against the officers, nearly 170 Atlanta police officers called out sick over a four-day span in what was dubbed as the Blue Flu.
Current and retired officers told Channel 2 Action News that normally, only one or two officers in each of the five zones call in sick a day.
“We’re all sticking together. We’re raising money because, at the end of the day, we are all each other have. We don’t see color. We see blue. We love each other,” the officer said.
Still, that hasn't stopped veteran officers from calling it quits.
According to records from the APD, two officers resigned in January, five in February and two in March and April.
In May, when the protests began, the department has eight resignations and 10 more as of June 25.
Still, city leaders assured the public that serious 911 calls will not go unanswered.
“No, it’s not accurate. We’re low staffed anyway. Once you start adding all the sickouts and people leaving, retiring — most all that snowballs,” the officer said. “The city doesn’t even know how understaffed we are right now.”
This officer told Seiden it's a shame how quickly things have changed.
“It’s been an emotional roller coaster to the point where I’ve been in tears because that’s how much I feel and love this job,” the officer said.
The office said he’s now preparing to offer his resignation.
“But at the end of the day, I’ve got to make sure that I’m there for my family,” the officer said. “I don’t feel safe doing my job here.”
He has one final message for the mayor.
“All you’re going to have left are the officers you say you want to get rid of, and that’s going to be your legacy — destruction in the city. Not being able to make a good decision, not backing your officers, not following the law and giving them due process. You, for whatever political reason — you decide to be judge, jury and executioner,” the officer said.
The officer told Seiden he expects more resignations throughout the summer and fall.
Seiden contacted the city for comments from the mayor and interim police chief on this story, but both declined.
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