What would you do if a split-second judgment at your job left you facing the death penalty?
That question was doubtless on the minds of the many Atlanta police officers who called in "sick" Wednesday evening. Whole zones reportedly went radio silent.
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The call-out was a response to charges in the case of officer Garrett Rolfe's killing of Rayshard Brooks, a black man shot while resisting arrest after passing out drunk in a Wendy's drive through.
The shooting resulted in Rolfe's dismissal, the Atlanta police chief's resignation, and an arsonist setting fire to the Wendy's. But that was not enough for Democratic district attorney Paul Howard, who faces an uphill reelection battle amid two separate investigations for graft, and who on Wednesday charged Rolfe with 11 counts, including felony murder. For this, Howard emphasized, Rolfe could face the death penalty.
Rolfe's shooting of Brooks is not like the prolonged chokehold that killed George Floyd, which sparked nationwide protests—and led only to a charge of second-degree murder. But in the minds of Howard, Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, and rabidly anti-police protesters, no difference can be admitted.
Brooks's death, like any person's, is tragic. Police who kill unjustly should be held accountable. But before he was shot, Brooks had attacked Rolfe and his partner, officer Devon Brosnan, and had taken and attempted to use Brosnan's taser against Rolfe.
Brooks had a history of violence and was on probation—facts Rolfe may have known. Rolfe made a split-second decision to protect himself and his partner from risk of death or great bodily harm—his right under Georgia law.
For this, a corrupt DA—who lied about Brosnan testifying against Rolfe and charged him without informing the Georgia Bureau of Investigation—wants him executed or imprisoned for decades. Is it any wonder that cops are walking out?
In 2018, more than 10 percent of officers were assaulted; 158 were killed. For taking such risks, police are afforded certain legal protections. They also earn respect, even gratitude, for putting their lives on the line for their fellow citizens.
That's how it's supposed to work, anyway. Increasingly, however, the media and Democratic politicians instead treat the police as brutal racists, pouncing on any misstep.
That hurts cops, like the Chicago officer who allowed herself to be beaten to the point of hospitalization rather than draw her weapon because, the police chief said, "she didn't want her family or the department to go through the scrutiny the next day on the national news."
When doing your job can lead to a death sentence, when you can't fight back against a brutal beating for fear of public recrimination, when prominent politicians want to punitively slash your funding—wouldn't you walk too? Many may not be able to do so in the current economy, but expect to see the cumulative impact of this approach when it bounces back.
Continuing down the path Democratic politicians are choosing will, inevitably, be the undoing of America's hard-won crime decline. Decades of research tell us so—just this month, two Harvard professors found that investigations of departments sparked by "viral" shootings suppressed police activity, leading to almost 900 added homicides and 34,000 felonies.
That's a bloody fact. If it becomes a national reality, we will have only those who now demagogue on hatred of the police to blame.