Atlanta mayor claims Officer Rolfe needed to be fired due to ‘the volatile state of our city and nation last summer’

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ATLANTA, GA – With the recent news of Atlanta Police Officer Garrett Rolfe being reinstated to the APD due to non-adherence to proper procedures when terminating officers, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms defended her decision to terminate Rolfe last year.

According to Mayor Bottoms, Rolfe needed to be fired due to “the volatile state of our city and nation last summer.”

As many have seen in other outlets, as well as we have previously reported here at Law Enforcement Today, Officer Rolfe has been reinstated to the APD.

This decision was reached after the Atlanta Civil Service Board acknowledged that Rolfe was terminated from the police department without there being a proper hearing regarding the matter.

Obviously, this news regarding Rolfe’s reinstatement was great to hear for some who believe his actions in June of 2020 were justified – but also served as contentious news for those who believe the shooting of Rayshard Brooks was unjust.

However, even though Officer Rolfe has been reinstated as a police officer, he’s only a police officer on paper.

Following his reinstatement that occurred on May 5th, he was also placed almost immediately on administrative leave.

The reason behind this is Rolfe is currently out on bond for a felony murder case tied to the June 2020 shooting of Brooks, where some of the conditions of his bond include not possessing a firearm and not associating with any APD officers.

Those bond conditions clearly cannot coexist with Rolfe actually performing the duties of a police officer with the APD – hence, his reinstatement with the department is merely on paper.

Nonetheless, Mayor Bottoms offered comments regarding Rolfe’s reinstatement with the APD, noting that she stands by the decision made last year to have the officer terminated in a manner that subverted standard procedures:

“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.”

Clearly, Mayor Bottoms’ statement is a reference of the rioting that unfolded after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May of 2020.

After word spread locally of Rolfe’s reinstatement to the APD, a couple dozen protesters were said to have gathered outside of Atlanta City Hall on the evening of May 5th, with some carrying signs that bore such slogans as “Justice for Rayshard Brooks” and “Jail Killer Cops Now”.

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As mentioned earlier, we at Law Enforcement Today previously reported on the news of Rolfe’s reinstatement with the APD. 

Here’s that previous report. 

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ATLANTA, GA – Garrett Rolfe, the fired Atlanta police officer who shot and killed Rayshard Brooks last summer, has been reinstated by the Atlanta Civil Service Board.

The board issued its decision this morning stating:

“Due to the City’s failure to comply with several provisions of the Code and the information received during witnesses’ testimony, the Board concludes the appellant was not afforded his right to due process. Therefore, the Board GRANTS the Appeal of Garrett Rolfe and revokes his dismissal as an employee of the APD.”

Rolfe was fired on June 13, the day after Brooks was fatally wounded outside a Wendy’s restaurant.

The incident, captured on surveillance and body camera video, began when officers arrived at the restaurant to find Brooks asleep in his vehicle.

After a brief discussion with Brooks, officers had him perform a field sobriety test, which he failed. Brooks asked officers to allow him to lock his car and walk home, but police informed him he was being arrested.

Brooks began struggling with officers and grabbed an officer’s stun gun. As Brooks ran from officers, he fired the stun gun in the direction of Officer Rolfe, who shot Brooks twice, striking him in the back. Brooks later died.

Rolfe has been charged with felony murder for the shooting and is awaiting trial.

Despite the pending trial, Rolfe appealed his firing with the Atlanta’s Civil Service Board. His attorney, Lance LoRusso, argued before the board two weeks ago that his client’s dismissal occurred “without proper investigation” by the city.

LoRusso also argued that Rolfe did not receive a proper 10-day notice to prepare for a disciplinary hearing before being terminated.

The hearing revealed that then-Atlanta police chief Erika Shields did not sign Rolfe’s dismissal form. She stepped down as chief that same day, eventually resigning. Assistant Chief Todd Coyt signed the dismissal form in Shields’ place.

During an “employee response hearing” held by the city following the shooting, Coyt told the board he believed Rolfe and the other officer charged in the case, Devin Brosnan, “acted accordingly and… were trying to show compassion and did everything they could to calm the situation down.”

However, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms told reporters at the time that the circumstances of Brooks’ death required immediate action:

“It is clear that we do not have another day, another minute, another hour to waste.”

LoRusso argued to the board that the process of the employee response hearing did not provide Rolfe time to offer a defense prior to being terminated.

Shockingly, it was also revealed during testimony by Atlanta Police Department Sgt. William Dean, an internal affairs investigator, that Rolfe’s hearing was scheduled to accommodate a 5 p.m. press conference by the mayor announcing Rolfe’s termination.

Rolfe testified that he did not find out about his employee response hearing until 3:45 p.m. and that he was more than an hour outside the city at the time and said he feared for his safety, as video of Brooks’ shooting had been widely seen.

In ruling that Rolfe be re-instated, the board noted the lack of notice as a primary finding:

“In this case, the effective date of the discipline was June 14, 2020, and the (notice of proposed adverse action) and the (notice of final adverse action) were issued to the Appellant’s Union Representative at virtually the same time on June 13, 2020. As such, the City’s actions were not compliant with the ten days prior notice period as required by the Code.”

LoRusso said the ruling does not mean Rolfe will be back on the streets as an Atlanta police officer any time soon. Rolfe will not be permitted to return to work because his bond on the murder charge prevents him from possessing a firearm or from being around other officers:

“He’d essentially be on administrative leave pending the outcome of the charges against them.”

The Atlanta Police Department has not issued a statement regarding the ruling as of the writing of this article.

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