ATLANTA — Gov. Brian Kemp released a video Thursday with a lengthy message in support of Georgia police officers and acknowledging the challenging time officers are facing.
The message comes the day after two Atlanta police officers were charged in connection with the death of Rayshard Brooks and after weeks of protests against police brutality nationwide.
“While so much of our attention is on the few that have violated their oath, we have failed to express our deepest appreciation for the many more who uphold it every day,” Kemp said. “So today and every day, we say ‘Thank you.’”
Kemp lauded officers’ work during the COVID-19 pandemic and during protests.
“During this global pandemic, you stepped up to help advance COVID-19 testing. You worked overtime to keep your friends and neighbors safe during peaceful community protests,” Kemp said. “And even when it seemed like the world abandoned you, and demonized your profession, you continued to sacrifice you life for the safety of others. "
On Wednesday night, rumors swirled that officers walked out after the Fulton County District Attorney announced charges against the two officers involved in Brooks’ death. Garrett Rolfe faces 11 charges in the deadly shooting, including felony murder. He is expected to turn himself in Thursday. Officer Devin Brosnan, who faces 3 charges, turned himself in earlier Thursday and was released on bond.
Channel 2′s Richard Elliot was outside the state Capitol, where Kemp’s office said his statement was in direct response to reports of Atlanta police officers refusing to go to work. Kemp’s office said the officers were protesting D.A. Paul Howard charging the officers in Brooks’ death, though Kemp never mentioned Brooks by name.
“Know this: We stand with you,” Kemp said. “We support you, and we have your back. I don’t know what comes next, but know that you are not alone.”
The Atlanta Police Department has said there was no massive walkout.
Elliot spoke to Democrat Roger Bruce, who said he supports good police officers, but doesn’t support what he saw in the Brooks case, and doesn’t support officers walking off the job.
“I’m very disturbed by the officers who have decided not to show up for work, because I’m trying to figure out if they’re telling me by not showing up that you agree with what these officers did,” Bruce said.
Georgia Congressman Doug Collins want Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr to appoint a special prosecutor to take over the Brooks case.
In a tweet, Carr wrote, “Our office can appoint another prosecutor if a D.A. disqualifies himself or herself or a court disqualifies him.”
“And I think that what we can do is encourage Paul Howard to recuse himself, so it would allow the Attorney General to appoint someone in this case,” Collins said.
Elliot reached out to Howard’s office for comment but hasn’t heard back.
More than $200,000 has been raised for Rolfe’s legal fees, according to the Georgia Law Enforcement Organization.
The Atlanta Police Foundation announced Thursday that every Atlanta police officer will get a $500 bonus for their work during the COVID-19 pandemic and protests over the last three months.
Kemp’s full statement:
Every day, thousands of Georgians wake up and put on a uniforms. Mothers, fathers, sons, daughters from every race, every background, every walk of life. While different people with different stories, these local heroes are united by one calling: To protect and serve."
Over the last several weeks, Georgians have gathered to demand justice for George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and many more who were tragically killed. And in response, lawmakers have worked under this gold dome to craft legislation and to ensure accountability and guarantee that liberty and justice for all has no exceptions.
While so much of our attention is on the few that have violated their oath, we have failed to express our deepest appreciation for the many more who uphold it every day. So today and every day, we say 'Thank you.' To public safety officers across our state who follow their training, act with integrity, and work around the clock to keep the peace, we are eternally grateful for your service.
During this global pandemic, you stepped up to help advance COVID-19 testing. You worked overtime to keep your friends and neighbors safe during peaceful community protests. And even when it seemed like the world abandoned you, and demonized your profession, you continued to sacrifice you life for the safety of others.
I know that these moments of uncertainty are challenging, and some of you fear going to work. You worry for your life and your loved ones. You don't want to give up on doing the right thing, but you don't want to get caught up in the politics either. Well know this: We stand with you. We support you, and we have your back.
I don’t know what comes next, but know that you are not alone. Georgia is a state that proudly backs the blue. We value these public servants and pray for them daily. We remember those who died in the line of duty and their families who still mourn their passing. It is impossible to describe the magnitude of their loss, which I’ve experienced firsthand attending the funerals of nine officers we’ve lost in just the last year-and-a-half.
There’s no doubt that we have a lot of work to do as a state, to live up to our highest ideals and reach our full potential. I’m confident that together, we can get their. With your help and continued support, we can build a safer, stronger and more prosperous state for all Georgians. God bless our peacemakers, and the communities they protect.
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