On Friday night June 12th, at 10:30 PM, the Atlanta Police Department responded to a complaint that an African-American man had fallen asleep in his car and was blocking the Wendy’s drive through.
The Tragic Event
The first officer who arrived on the scene was Devin Brosnan who awakened 27 year old Rayshard Brooks and asked him to pull aside. During a relatively long conversation between the police and the subject, Mr. Brooks was asked to take a sobriety test. It revealed a blood-alcohol count too high to drive. A second officer, Garrett Rolfe, arrived to assist Brosnan as he handcuffed Mr. Brooks. Brooks fought back. After being pinned down by both officers, Brosnan drew a taser, which Mr. Brooks grabbed. He punched Rolfe and began to run away. Rofle tried to taser Mr. Brooks who responded with Brosnan’s taser. The conflict escalated when Rofle used his hand gun to shoot the fleeing Mr. Brooks in his back multiple times.
The medical examiner judged the event to be a homicide.
Change is Going to Come
The killing has further inflamed frustrations with police brutality against African-Americans. On Monday, the Democratic Mayor of Atlanta Keisha Lance Bottoms announced a series of changes aimed at dramatically changing how the police department can use force. De-escalation methods will now be required before an officer resorts to lethal force. Officers will also now be “duty bound” to intercede when they see another officer engaging in an unnecessary use of force. Under the new rules, Atlanta police officers will be allowed to use only the “amount of objectively reasonable force” to protect themselves and others while carrying out an arrest.
The Police Union Responds
Vincent Champion, the southeast regional director for the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, objected to Ms. Bottoms’ decision to label the killing of Brooks as a murder, though he said the Mayor’s plans were not a departure from policies already in place.
A Broader View
Many observers believe that this operation should have been a wellness check rather than an arrest. They argue that the expanded role of police in our civil society should be rolled back and limited to actual criminal activity rather than intervening in social issues like public drunkenness, traffic and parking issues and domestic incidents.