ATLANTA — Records obtained by Channel 2 Action News reveal arrests for all crimes in Atlanta dropped dramatically right after city wide protests and leading up to the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks.
A police union representative told Channel 2 investigative reporter Richard Belcher that officers are afraid routine stops will explode into something far more serious.
We know dozens of police officers started calling in sick after the Fulton County district attorney charged two officers in Brooks’ death.
But numbers from a week earlier tell us that traffic stops were already down by nearly 80%.
“It’s a reflection of the officers’ nervousness or, you know, hesitation to be the next officer that’s put in jail,” said Vince Champion, with the International Brotherhood of Police Officers.
The dramatic slowdown in policing mostly came before the incident at the University Avenue Wendy’s that began as a seemingly routine call about a person asleep in a car and ended with a fight, a stolen Taser and a suspect shot to death.
Champion said officers know that routine is never guaranteed.
“When you approach a car, you have absolutely no idea what’s going on,” Champion said.
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Records show that in the week starting six days before the Brooks shooting, Atlanta police made just 709 traffic stops citywide.
That's a drop of 79% from the same week a year ago. And it was more than traffic stops.
Arrests for serious offenses such as rape, armed robbery and murder dropped 64% that week compared to a year earlier.
Total arrests citywide dropped 71%.
This came after the district attorney charged six officers who Tased and dragged two young people from a car during demonstrations downtown.
Champion contends citizens will pay the price if police become too cautious.
“Those officers who would’ve been pulling over the suspicious vehicles, patrolling the neighborhoods, getting out with people at two or three o’clock in the morning wandering in yards and things like that, so we might be able to do proactive and stop that. I don’t know that that’s being done as much as it used to,” Champion said.
The COVID-19 crisis may have contributed to the drop in arrests and traffic stops. Total arrests were down 27% for a comparative 28-day period.
The decline in total arrests was at 71% two weeks ago.
A city spokesman sent Belcher a statement that reads, in part: “APD attributes the reduction in crime predominately to a week over week reduction that had occurred since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic — in addition to the curfew.”
The curfew actually ended the day before the 7-day period we examined.