As global protests against police brutality persist, several police departments within the U.S. are experiencing what other outlets are referring to as “Blue Flu."
In Atlanta, a “higher than usual” number of police officers called out from work Wednesday after two police officers responsible for the death of Rayshard Brooks received criminal charges. Former officer Garrett Rolfe was charged felony murder and aggravated assault, and his former colleague Devin Brosnan is facing a charge of aggravated assault, as Blavity previously reported. According to Forbes, this type of protest, or “Blue Flu,” might be the next great calamity in the country.
Vince Champion, regional director of the Brotherhood of Police Officers, confirmed to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Wednesday night that the protest was happening and explained what the officers were doing.
“There are officers walking off." Champion said. "There are officers saying they are not going to leave the precinct unless to help another officer. Some are walking off and sitting in their personal vehicles."
The Atlanta Police Department sent a tweet from its official Twitter account refuting claims that multiple officers from various zones had walked off from their posts.
Earlier suggestions that multiple officers from each zone had walked off the job were inaccurate. The department is experiencing a higher than usual number of call outs with the incoming shift. We have enough resources to maintain operations & remain able to respond to incidents.
— Atlanta Police Department (@Atlanta_Police) June 18, 2020
Considering the noticeable gap in police presence, activists believe the recent police protests may work in favor of the push to defund law enforcement agencies around the country.
Author and activist Michael Eric Dyson wrote that other support services and agencies can come together to aid the community if the police refuse to do the job.
“50% of the Atlanta Police Department not showing up last night because of 'blue flu' may be the most powerful argument for abolishing our police departments yet given. Other departments can render services and keep us safe as we shift resources and consciousness all at once,” he tweeted Thursday.
50% of the Atlanta Police Department not showing up last night because of “blue flu” may be the most powerful argument for abolishing our police departments yet given. Other departments can render services and keep us safe as we shift resources and consciousness all at once.
— Michael Eric Dyson (@MichaelEDyson) June 18, 2020
A number of Twitter users agreed with Dyson’s sentiments and said the city felt safer without such heavy policing.
Was probably the safest night that ATL had in a long time.
— P. J. Kinney (@PJK2175) June 18, 2020
Exctly what's wrong with police departments. It's a them versus us mentality. Police side with their brothers in blue and don't worry about doing the right thing (turning a fellow officer). They don't see themselves as part of the community.
— Wayne (@wayneorland) June 18, 2020
Seems like Atlanta survived not having 50% of the police force. I didn't hear the news report mass looting, more robberies or any other upticks in crimes. Sounds like we don't need the ones who didn't show up.
— Keith (@keith72504) June 18, 2020
So what you saying is that Black men in Atlanta had a 50% better chance of surviving last night. Got it.
— Buck W. Heat (@StrandTall) June 18, 2020
With public support for police declining, morale within the police department is also on the downslide. On Wednesday, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said the latest incidents have dramatically affected the culture in the APD.
“Across the country, morale is down with police departments, and I think ours is down tenfold,” she said.
The strike comes on the heels of the resignations of the entire 57-member Buffalo Police Department Emergency Response Team following the suspensions of two officers who were seen shoving a 75-year-old protester on video, the New York Post reported.
The activist, Martin Gugino, is in serious, but stable condition after hitting the ground hard enough that blood visibly poured from his ear, the Post reported.
John Evans, president of the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association, said the officers resigned out of “disgust” for the treatment of their peers.
“Fifty-seven resigned in disgust because of the treatment of two of their members, who were simply executing orders,” Evans said.
The officers are still employed, but they will no longer be active on the team.
Since scrutiny toward BPD has increased, cases like that of Black police officer Cariol Horne have reemerged in the public consciousness. As Blavity previously reported, Horne was fired by the department in 2008 after she stopped a white officer from putting a man in a chokehold during an arrest in 2006.
The Buffalo Common Council voted this week and decided to ask the state's Attorney General Letitia James to investigate Horne’s case, per NBC News. Horne revealed that she was booed by other cops when she attended a recent protest.
Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, Police Staff Inspector Joseph Bologna was applauded by more than 100 officers Monday after he turned himself in on charges of aggravated assault. The charges follow the discovery of a video in which he is seen hitting a Temple University student with a baton.
NEW TONIGHT: Philadelphia area district attorney will prosecute Philadelphia Police Staff Inspector Joseph Bologna on a charge of Aggravated Assault for busting open the head of a college student by hitting him with a police baton during protests. @CBSPhilly
— David Begnaud (@DavidBegnaud) June 6, 2020
Bologna, 54, shouted “Thank you,” to his audience before being released later on $10,000 unsecured bail, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for June 25.