Interim Atlanta police chief: ‘We will not fail this city’

Rodney Bryant was appointed after Erika Shields stepped aside

Interim Atlanta Police Department Chief Rodney Bryant said Friday that officer “sickouts” have not affected the department’s ability to respond to 911 calls.

Bryant spoke during the Atlanta City Council’s meeting and addressed questions about reports that officers failed to report to work Wednesday night after Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard announced criminal charges against two officers involved in the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks.

"I have to assume many of those officers who walked out won't be coming back" Atlanta Police Union representative Ken Allen said Thursday.

Bryant did not provide an exact number of officers who failed to report to work. But he said the 911 call volume has remained low, as it has been in recent months, due to the coronavirus.

RELATED: 'Higher than usual number' of Atlanta officers call out of work

ALSO: Fulton DA charges former APD cop with murder in Wendy's shooting

“We will not fail this city,” Bryant said. “Officers are tired and rightfully so and stressed. But the majority of us will continue to stand as guardians of this city and make sure every citizen is safe.”

The Atlanta Police Foundation, supported with private donations, announced Thursday it would fund $500 bonuses for all officers.

“What I fear most is losing 30 to 40 officers because of low morale,” said Dave Wilkinson, president and CEO of the Atlanta Police Foundation.

Bryant was named interim chief last weekend, when Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced that Chief Erika Shields had stepped aside after Brooks was shot and killed in a downtown Wendy’s parking lot.

Shields, who served 3½ years as chief, was to remain with the department in an unspecified role, Bottoms said then.

One of the officers involved, Garrett Rolfe, was fired Saturday. The second officer, Devin Brosnan, was placed on administrative duty. On Wednesday, Howard secured arrest warrants for both, charging Rolfe with 11 counts including felony murder. He is being held without bond and is due in magistrate court today. 

Brosnan, who is charged with aggravated assault and three counts of violation of oath in the same case, was booked Thursday morning and released hours later on a $50,000 signature bond.

During an interview with MSNBC after he was released on bond Brosnan called Brooks' death a tragedy.

Late Thursday, the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association condemned Howard’s actions, calling it a political move in letter written by Lumpkin County Sheriff Stacy Jarrard, the group’s president.

“Through this grandstanding vote seeking tactic, Howard has trampled on the rights of Officer Garrett Rolfe and Officer Devin Brosnan and has further allowed this tragic incident to be more about his re-election than justice for the officers involved, the Atlanta Police Department and the citizens of our state,” Jarrard said. “The Sheriffs, through the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association, condemn these actions of District Attorney Paul Howard and urge the public to allow time for justice to be served through close examination of the facts of this tragic incident. Only then can confidence in the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office and our system of justice be restored.”

Despite some Atlanta officers failing to show up for shifts, Bryant said the department has shifted resources.

“Right now we are adequately staffed,” Bryant said. “Nothing indicates we need outside assistance to respond to 911 calls.”

The Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, which has assisted APD during recent protests, has continued to work with the department this week, Bryant said.

Bryant called the events of recent weeks trying times for all of Atlanta’s officers.

“What they need is to be assured that they’re supported during these times,” he said.