The Atlanta Civil Service Board has ordered the reinstatement of Garrett Rolfe on the grounds that the police department failed to follow city code when it dismissed him from the force after he fatally shot Rayshard Brooks.
Brooks’ June 12 killing sparked protests in the city, which later escalated to clashes with law enforcement, looting and destruction of property. Besides Rolfe’s swift termination in the aftermath of the incident, the city’s police chief also resigned.
However, the Atlanta Civil Service Board in its decision on Wednesday determined Rolfe’s termination wasn’t executed accordingly and highlighted the reasons, CNN reported. The board wrote in its decision that an Atlanta police veteran who testified before them in April said Rolfe’s termination “seemed rushed and sufficient time was not provided for the Appellant (Rolfe) to submit a response.”
The police veteran also said Rolfe was instructed “not to be inside the City limits for his own safety” as a result of “heightened community concerns” – thereby preventing him from being given due process to respond to his termination. The veteran further testified Rolfe’s termination from the force may have been done in a rushed manner partly because of a “press conference that was on the horizon.”
Responding to Rolfe’s reinstatement, the Atlanta Police Department released a statement saying the board’s decision only determined his dismissal was “not done in accordance with the Atlanta City Code.”
“It is important to note that the CSB did not make a determination as to whether officer Rolfe violated Atlanta Police Department policies. In light of the CSB’s rulings, APD will conduct an assessment to determine if additional investigative actions are needed,” the statement said. Rolfe will, however, “remain on administrative leave” until the criminal charges leveled against him for Brooks’ killing are “resolved”, APD added. Rolfe faces a slew of charges including felony murder, five counts of aggravated assault, four counts of violation of oath of office and one count of criminal damage to property, CNN reported.
Speaking to the news outlet, Rolfe’s attorney, Lance LoRusso, welcomed his client’s reinstatement, saying they’re “very excited that the Civil Board says that due process matters.” LoRusso also said he’ll work on ensuring his client resumes duty though it might not be that soon.
Meanwhile, Brooks’ family has condemned the recent development and called out the officials behind Rolfe’s firing. “We find it mind boggling that our elected officials and the former chief weren’t aware of the proper procedure to fire an officer,” family attorney L. Chris Stewart said, according to CNN. “So now it is questions of, ‘Was that done to temporarily pacify the protesters and the people around the world that were upset?’” Stewart, however, highlighted the board’s decision was a “procedural error” that wouldn’t have any effect on the circumstances surrounding Brooks’ death.
The attorney also said what makes the family “disappointed and confused” by Rolfe’s reinstatement is how the criminal case against him is dragging. “It appears that Rayshard Brooks’ life didn’t really matter and that the world has moved on,” Steward, who said the reinstated officer has “received more justice” than the deceased and his family, added.
On Friday, June 12, officers were called to Wendy’s at 125 University Ave, Atlanta, after a man was spotted sleeping in his car in the drive-through. Per body cam footage, officer Devin Brosnan is seen trying to wake Brooks up after reporting to the scene. He is seen knocking on Brooks’ car window and then opening the door.
“Hey man, you’re parked in the middle of the drive-thru line here,” Brosnan is heard saying.
After Brooks wakes up, Brosnan instructs him to move to a parking spot and then asks him if he has been drinking. Brooks tells him he had just a drink. Later in the video, Brosnan is heard calling for backup for a DUI-certified officer, and Rolfe arrives some minutes later.
“A field sobriety test was performed on the male subject. After failing the test, the officers attempted to place the male subject into custody. During the arrest, the male subject resisted and a struggle ensued,” GBI said in a statement.
Though the officers’ body cameras were knocked off during the altercation, additional surveillance video from the restaurant as well as footage from a bystander showed Brooks managed to grab hold of Brosnan’s Taser and attempted to flee.
“These new videos indicate that during a physical struggle with officers, Brooks obtained one of the officer’s Tasers and began to flee from the scene,” the GBI said. “Officers pursued Brooks on foot and during the chase, Brooks turned and pointed the Taser at the officer. The officer fired his weapon, striking Brooks.”