Several police officers in Atlanta, Georgia have been walking off the job or calling in sick since Wednesday. The decision was apparently an act of protest in response to Officer Garrett Rolfe facing charges related to the murder of Rayshard Brooks after an encounter at a Wendy's parking lot on June 12.
Rolfe was fired from the force shortly after the incident before being arrested on Wednesday. Now, the cops' mass-absence has been dubbed "the blue flu." According to WRBL, the non-profit group Georgia Law Enforcement posted about the walkout to Facebook Wednesday night. They wrote that "multiple shifts within the Atlanta Police Department have walked off the job tonight, calls are pending and the P.D. is begging for surrounding agencies to help." Atlanta's police union also confirmed the mass walkouts on Wednesday, indicating officers either called in sick or walked off the job entirely.
Southeast regional director of the International Brotherhood of Police officers Vince Champion said that officers on shift had stopped answering calls in solidarity with Rolfe. "The union, we would never advocate this. We wouldn't advocate a blue flu," Champion said. "We don't know the numbers. Apparently, we're learning that command staff is asking outlying counties for support and aren't getting it."
Georgia State Senator and veteran law enforcement official Randy Robertson also commented on the walkout. "While I have never condoned any action by law enforcement that might impact the safety and welfare of the citizens, it has become obvious during the past few days that those who were elected to lead the city of Atlanta and the Fulton County DA's Office have chosen to surrender Law and Order, Due-Process, and The Safety of Citizens to rioters, vandals, and criminals." He added that the "failure of leadership has placed every man and woman who wears a badge in the City of Atlanta directly into the Cross-Hairs of Hate."
Brooks' killing came after more than two weeks of ongoing civil rights protests across the U.S., calling for an end to police violence as well as a radical reformation of the nation's police departments. They were sparked by the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who was killed by the police during his arrest in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 25. As the protests continue a number of local governments have begun to reduce their police budgets while allocating money to fund other community programs.