“We felt like it was important at this time because the morale is at the level, there is the rumors of other officers leaving, and we just do not want to lose good police officers,” said Dave Wilkinson, with the Atlanta Police Foundation, in an interview on Thursday.
Wilkinson added that it will purchase 20 police vehicles to replace those that were destroyed during unrest several weeks ago that was triggered by the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in Minneapolis police custody.
“We’re afraid of losing good police officers, our city losing good police officers,” Wilkinson told WSB-TV in a video interview. “All this is in support of just showing that we appreciate the sacrifice these officers have made during this time.”
The Atlanta Police Foundation said the money was raised via fundraisers, and no city funds will be used for the bonuses.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, a Democrat, and interim police chief Rodney Bryant have both said that police officers’ morale is low, in part due to protests in the city and nationwide.
Bryant told The Associated Press that officers were still calling in sick on Thursday, attributing the sick calls to the growing anti-police sentiment. He noted that officers are also working long shifts during which they’ve been met with hostility from demonstrators who have even physically assaulted them.
“Some are angry. Some are fearful. Some are confused on what we do in this space. Some may feel abandoned,” Bryant said. “But we are there to assure them that we will continue to move forward and get through this.”
Bryant noted that “at some point, people get tired, I recognize that, and physically exhausted … We will definitely get beyond it, and I’m certain that we will see our sick-outs drop back to normal, average.”
Earlier this week, after some officers reportedly didn’t show up for work, it prompted the Atlanta Police Department to try and assure people that 911 calls are still being responded to.
“The Atlanta Police Department is able to respond effectively to 911 calls. Please don’t hesitate to call if you have an emergency,” one post on Twitter read from the department.
The office downplayed the sick calls, writing that “suggestions that multiple officers from each zone had walked off the job were inaccurate” and it has enough resources to handle operations.
Bottoms told WSB-TV that while she supports the police department, she said there is a “shift happening across this country.”
“This is not about the mayor’s office against our police officers. It’s not about our communities against our police officers. It’s about us being thoughtful about how we continue to work together as a whole,” Bottoms remarked.
The apparent increase in sick calls came after former officer Garrett Rolfe was charged with murder in the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks, who had resisted arrest before stealing an officer’s taser and fired it at Rolfe.
“Fearing for his safety, and the safety of the civilians around him, Officer Rolfe dropped his Taser and fired his service weapon at the only portion of Mr. Brooks that presented to him—Mr. Brooks’s back,” Rolfe’s lawyer said in a statement.