Two white Atlanta police officers involved in the fatal shooting of Rayshard Brooks at a 2020 encounter will not be charged, raising questions about how police across the country are dealing with the aftermath in the wake of shootings deadly.
Brooks was killed three weeks after the death of George Floyd, reigniting a wave of protests in Atlanta calling for an end to racial inequality and police brutality.
Hours after being shot and killed, Atlanta’s police chief resigned. One officer was fired and the other placed on administrative leave, and warrants were issued against both.
But more than two years later, both officers are still employed at the Atlanta Police Department. Here’s how efforts to punish cops have failed despite nationwide push for police accountability.
How did Rayshard Brooks die?
Brooks, 27, was shot by an officer while fleeing during a struggle at a Wendy’s drive-thru in June 2020. Brooks, who is black, had fallen asleep in his drive-thru car.
After failing a sobriety test and two white police officers tried to arrest him, Brooks resisted being handcuffed. He snatched a Taser from one of the officers and was running away, shooting one of the officers, when he was shot.
The Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled Brooks’ death a homicide, according to a news release.
“Mr. Brooks suffered two gunshot wounds to the back which caused organ damage and loss of blood,” the statement said.
Did the officers involved in the death of Rayshard Brooks suffer any consequences?
The officer who shot Brooks twice in the back, Garrett Rolfe, was fired a day after the shooting. The other officer present in the shooting, Devin Brosnan, was placed on administrative duty.
Five days after Brooks’ murder, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard announced warrants for both officers at a press conference. The charges against Rolfe included murder, aggravated assault, and breach of his oath. Brosnan was charged with aggravated assault and breach of his oath.
But Brosnan’s dismissal was overturned in May 2021 by the Atlanta Public Service Board, and the executive director of the Georgia Prosecution Board of Attorneys said Tuesday he would file paperwork to dismiss the warrants.
Pete Skandalakis said he believed Rolfe acted appropriately in shooting and killing Brooks.
Both officers are still employed by the Atlanta Police Department on administrative duty, the department confirmed Tuesday.
Why haven’t the police been charged in the death of Rayshard Brooks?
Skandalakis said Tuesday he doesn’t believe race played a role.
“This is a case where the officers were prepared to give Mr. Brooks the benefit of the doubt and, you know, unfortunately by his actions, that’s what happened,” Skandalakis said. .
The charges against police in Brooks’ death were once seen as part of a ‘new era’ in policing – a time when defenders hoped police would come under increased scrutiny and would face an increased risk of consequences when the public disagreed with his use of force.
But experts told USA TODAY that’s only partially true.
Little has changed in the complex, highly localized systems that are designed to make it difficult to charge officers with workplace violence crimes, said Keith Taylor, a longtime New York police officer who now teaches the criminal justice at John Jay College. .
A consistent obstacle to successfully convicting an officer: US law considers an officer’s subjective feelings when choosing to use force.
A bystander’s video may depict a scene that appears to be excessive force, but when charging decisions are made, what matters most is the officer’s “perception of feeling that they or someone else is wrong.” Others are in grave danger,” Taylor said.
Protections for the police can take various forms: collective agreements, laws or departmental policies. And changing them isn’t easy and hasn’t happened en masse across the country since the death of George Floyd.
How often do the police face charges or get fired for misconduct?
After former police officer Derek Chauvin was sentenced to 22½ years in prison for the 2020 murder of George Floyd, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison called the sentencing a “significant moment for our country.” .
“The outcome of this case is of crucial importance, but, in itself, it is not enough,” he said. “My hope for our country is that this moment gives us pause and allows us to rededicate ourselves to the real societal change that will take us much further down the road to justice.”
But Chauvin’s conviction is a departure from the norm by which many police officers face criminal charges for killing people.
In 2015 and 2016, 80 police officers were arrested for murder or manslaughter, according to data from the Henry A. Wallace Police Crime Database, which tracks criminal arrests of nonfederal police officers. 66% of those officers were on duty during the shooting and 78% acted in their official police capacity, the data showed.
But the arrest rate of police officers who shoot and kill is staggeringly low — around 1% and never more than 2%, Philip Matthew Stinson, the researcher behind the database, told Vox.
Maria “Maki” Haberfeld, a professor of police science at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, told USA TODAY that police have come under greater scrutiny and scrutiny since George’s death. Floyd and the massive nationwide protests calling for an end to police brutality.
Some easy-to-implement changes — like the increased use of body cameras — have become more common in recent years, Haberfeld said.
But she sees little evidence of more systemic reforms — things like overhauling training to better teach officers how to prevent situations from escalating into violence.
“Officers continue to behave the same way … anyone who thinks this is a new era, that’s more theory than practice,” Haberfeld said.
Contributors: Grace Hauck and Nicquel Terry Ellis, USA TODAY; The Associated Press