Michael Cardinal, FISM News
Police officer Garrett Rolfe was reinstated as an Atlanta police officer after an oversight board ruled that he was not afforded due process prior to being fired in June for fatally shooting Rashard Brooks.
On June 12, 2020 police responded to an Atlanta-area Wendy’s due to reports of an intoxicated man (Rashard Brooks) who was passed out in a vehicle in the fast-food drive-through. Body-cam footage from Rolfe’s partner, Devin Brosnan, shows Brooks and Rolfe conversing relatively calmly for several minutes, until Brooks was being placed under arrest for a resisting a sobriety test. Brooks then wrestled with the police officers, obtained Brosnan’s taser, and fired it at the officers before being shot twice by Rolfe, killing him.
Rolfe was fired less than 48 hours later by Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, without a hearing.
The incident happened two weeks after the murder of George Floyd. With race tensions at an all time high across the country at the time, Rolfe, who is white, appeared to be guilty by association without any investigation into the facts of the case. Bottoms vaguely admitted this in a statement after the ruling on Wednesday, which said, “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.”
Atlanta’s Civil Service Board revoked Rolfe’s dismissal “due to the City’s failure to comply with several provisions of the Code and the information received during witnesses’ testimony [Rolfe] was not afforded his right to due process.” The main reasoning for the reversal by the Board was the fact that Rolfe was not given 10-days written notice as required by city code, and in turn never had the opportunity to appeal the decision.
Rolfe’s lawyer, Lance LoRusso, applauded the ruling, saying he is happy that his client has “won the opportunity to explain what happened.” He did, however, contest that the reversal should not just be viewed as the result of a clerical error, but rather due to the fact that his client acted in line with his training. On ABC News on Wednesday, LoRusso pointed to the fact that during the hearing, two senior officers “testified that Garrett Rolfe did absolutely nothing wrong on June 12, 2020.”
For the time being, Rolfe will be assigned to administrative leave while he awaits trial for murder and aggravated assault in the case. He will be given back-pay for the time following his wrongful dismissal.
Lawyers for Brooks’ family released a statement after the ruling saying that the family felt “disappointment and confusion” and that “Officer Rolfe has received more justice than the family of Rayshard Brooks.”
The date for Rolfe’s murder trial has still not been set.