Wow: Atlanta PD reinstates police officer charged with murder -- with back pay?

Talk about mixed messaging. Acting in the wake of the death of George Floyd, the city of Atlanta immediately fired the police officer involved in the shooting of Rayshard Brooks, even though Brooks had assaulted the officers and aimed their own Taser at them. The city rushed to charge Garrett Rolfe with murder, even while video suggested that Rolfe and other officers had a case for self-defense.

Rolfe still faces a felony murder charge, among other counts in the indictment. And he’ll be an active-duty cop when he shows up in court, thanks to the Atlanta Civil Service Board’s decision late yesterday (via Power Line’s Paul Mirengoff):

The Atlanta Civil Service Board reinstated Garrett Rolfe to the Atlanta Police Department on Wednesday because he “was not afforded his right to due process,” according to the five-page finding of fact and order.

Rolfe’s reinstatement comes nearly two weeks after a hearing before the board in which his attorney argued that he was not given a fair amount of time to defend himself against the firing, had not authorized a union official to represent him at the employee response hearing and did not violate any rules in Brooks’s shooting.

He’ll get a big check from the city as well, his attorney insists, and not from a lawsuit:

Rolfe is facing multiple charges stemming from the incident, including felony murder, aggravated assault and violation of oath.

Lance LoRusso, Rolfe’s attorney, told The Washington Post that his client is eligible to receive back pay and full reinstatement, according to city ordinances.

The ACSB tiptoed around the issue of whether the shooting of Brooks was justified. However, their report emphasizes testimony from an Internal Affairs investigator, who told the panel that APD leadership was more interested in a press conference than in due process:

Sergeant William Dean, an APD veteran of twenty-five years and currently assigned to the Internal Affairs Advocacy Unit of Internal Affair, testified that the Appellant’s dismissal seemed rushed and sufficient time was not provided for the Appellant to submit a response. Due to heightened community concerns surrounding the events of June 12, 2020, the Appellant was told not to be inside the City limits for his own safety. Sergeant Dean testified that different arrangements could have been made to present the NPAA and NFAA to the Appellant, while offering him an opportunity to respond to the City’s actions as permitted by the Code. He further stated that the hurried dismissal may have been due in part, to a press conference that was on the horizon. Finally, Sergeant Dean testified that during his tenure in Internal Affairs, he was unaware of any employment termination of an APD officer for alleged firearms infractions without APD having first conducted the requisite investigations.

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.

This vindicates the outrage expressed by other members of the APD, including the union representing law enforcement. The police force staged job actions in the aftermath of Rolfe’s dismissal, walking off the job to such an extent that Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms had to beg in another press conference for the officers to “keep their commitment.”

This probably won’t be the last court victory that Rolfe’s team wins. The state police opened an investigation into DA Paul Howard to determine whether he fraudulently issued grand jury subpoenas. Howard was already the target of an investigation into kickbacks, and his snap decision to charge Rolfe without waiting for a Georgia Bureau of Investigation review smelled of politics as well. Howard lost his election shortly afterward in a landslide, but the new DA has not yet made any decisions on whether to sustain the indictments against Rolfe.

This report probably won’t directly impact that choice, but that leaves the city of Atlanta in a tough position. The ACSB report makes it very clear that APD leadership railroaded Rolfe out of a job, and Howard’s antics make it just as clear that the indictments against Rolfe were entirely political. Even if the current DA has a case against Rolfe — and that’s questionable at best in light of the video, especially for a murder charge — how can they successfully try him with this record of political manipulation in evidence? Not only does this record provide an appellate attorney a dream case on appeal, a jury would smell this stench from a mile away.

Speaking of which … when will the investigation of Howard be completed? It might be entertaining to put that case in front of a jury …