On May 5, the City of Atlanta reinstated Garrett Rolfe — the police officer who shot and killed Rayshard Brooks — with back pay and full benefits.
The City is reinstating Rolfe because the Atlanta Civil Service Board recently decided that the City failed “to comply with several provisions.” Further, that Rolfe was not provided “his right to due process,” at the time of his dismissal from the Atlanta Police Department.
Meanwhile, almost a year has passed since Rayshard Brooks’ killing, and Garrett Rolfe has yet to be prosecuted for his crime.
Rolfe still faces charges for murder. His bond prevents him from possessing a firearm and returning to work, so he will remain on administrative leave. Meaning, the killer cop will continue to receive the same salary he had before his dismissal last summer.
Mass rebellion forces City to fire and charge killer cop in 2020
On June 12, 2020, the APD was called because Rayshard Brooks had fallen asleep in his car while parked in the drive-thru line of a Wendy’s restaurant. At one point, the police tried to arrest Brooks by wrestling him to the ground and shocked him with a Taser. Brooks was able to break free but while he was running away, Rolfe fatally shot him twice in the back.
The following day, thousands took to the streets, demanding justice for Rayshard Brooks. Protesters blocked off a freeway. By the end of the night, the Wendy’s where Brooks was killed was burned down. Over the following weeks, the community took control of the site where the Wendy’s once stood and named it The Rayshard Brooks Peace Center. It remains a symbol of resistance.
Under the pressure of the mass rebellion, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms fired Garrett Rolfe on June 14, 2020. In response to the movement in the streets, then District Attorney Paul Howard also brought charges against Rolfe. The charges included felony murder, five counts of aggravated assault, four police oath violations, and damage to property.
As previously reported by Liberation News, over the past year, Fulton County’s District Attorney Fani Willis and Georgia’s Attorney General Chris Carr have been locked in a dispute over who should prosecute the officers involved in Brooks’ murder. DA Willis refused to prosecute Rolfe citing conflict of interest, which the attorney general dismissed as untrue.
Former DA Paul Howard, initially assigned to the case, was later placed under investigation for bringing charges against the killer cops. Following Howard’s removal, no prosecutor was appointed. Rolfe’s attorneys took full advantage of the situation by filing motions to have his charges and the entire case dismissed.
The decision to reinstate Garrett Rolfe came soon after the City of Atlanta approved an increase in the police budget for fiscal year 2022 by $15 million, accounting for over 30% of the city’s budget. Citing the rise in crime last year, Atlanta decided to give the police even more money to incentivize retention. However, the police budget had increased by $8 million the previous year and crime — rooted in socioeconomic conditions — still increased.
In a rare moment of honesty, Mayor Bottoms admitted that Rolfe had only been fired in response to the nationwide uprisings following the murders of George Floyd, Brianna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery.
“Given the volatile state of our city and nation last summer, the decision to terminate this officer, after he fatally shot Mr. Brooks in the back, was the right thing to do. Had immediate action not been taken, I firmly believe that the public safety crisis that we experienced during that time would have been significantly worse,” said the mayor.
This statement serves as a reminder that the ruling class and their political representatives fear an organized movement capable of overturning the system. They only punish their own when they are forced to do so by mass social movements.
Bottoms and the rest of the City of Atlanta were hoping the pressure from the national uprisings had fizzled out a year later. But residents of Georgia continue to demand justice for all victims of police terror.
Community organizers including Justice for Georgia, Promote Positivity Movement, Movement for Black Lives, and the Atlanta branch of the Party for Socialism and Liberation took the steps of Atlanta City Hall on the evening of May 5 to protest Rolfe’s reinstatement.
“Maybe you [the police] shouldn’t be policing our communities then. Maybe we need a different solution because every time we get pulled over for a traffic stop, [there is] a possibility a Black man might die,” said one activist.
The decision to reinstate the killer cop shows that so long as the government and the institutions of the state are controlled by the 1%, any victory won by the people can be taken away. The demand to jail killer cops remains while working-class and oppressed people continue to build the struggle for a new system without police terror.