A day after a sick-out protest by some Atlanta police officers, Gov. Brian Kemp released a video in support of law enforcement officials under the headline: “Georgia backs the Blue!”
The governor delivered his message Thursday as Atlanta’s leaders scramble to address the fallout of the shooting of Rayshard Brooks, which led to the resignation of the city’s police chief and fueled new protests for racial equality and justice.
“While so much of our attention is on the few that have violated their oath, we have failed to express our deepest appreciation for the many more who uphold it every day,” said Kemp. “So today and every day, we say ‘Thank you.’”
Kemp, a Republican, ran for office as a law-and-order candidate promising new crackdowns on gang violence and illegal immigration. He has also quietly attended funerals of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty for years, often paying his respects privately with no fanfare.
His comments come after an unusually high number of Atlanta officers called out sick Wednesday night, hours after the Fulton County prosecutors charged the two police officials involved in Brooks’ shooting.
The Atlanta police department said it was able to “respond effectively to 911 calls” on Thursday despite absences, raising concerns the sickout could continue another day.
In another effort to boost officer morale, the Atlanta Police Foundation said Thursday all of the city’s officers will receive a one-time $500 bonus.
Kemp didn’t directly address the turmoil in Atlanta or directly criticize the large-scale rallies that have drawn thousands of demonstrators, including many Democratic leaders, who protest police brutality and racial injustice.
Instead, he praised officers for serving at a time when it “seemed like the world abandoned you and demonized your profession.”
“You don't want to give up on doing the right thing, but you don't want to get caught up in the politics either,” he said. “Well know this: We stand with you. We support you, and we have your back.”
Here’s Kemp’s full statement:
Every day, thousands of Georgians wake up and put on a uniforms. Mothers, fathers, sons, daughters from every race, every background, every walk of life. While different people with different stories, these local heroes are united by one calling: To protect and serve."
Over the last several weeks, Georgians have gathered to demand justice for George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and many more who were tragically killed. And in response, lawmakers have worked under this Gold Dome to craft legislation and to ensure accountability and guarantee that liberty and justice for all has no exceptions.
While so much of our attention is on the few that have violated their oath, we have failed to express our deepest appreciation for the many more who uphold it every day. So today and every day, we say 'Thank you.' To public safety officers across our state who follow their training, act with integrity, and work around the clock to keep the peace, we are eternally grateful for your service.
During this global pandemic, you stepped up to help advance COVID-19 testing. You worked overtime to keep your friends and neighbors safe during peaceful community protests. And even when it seemed like the world abandoned you, and demonized your profession, you continued to sacrifice your life for the safety of others.
I know that these moments of uncertainty are challenging, and some of you fear going to work. You worry for your life and your loved ones. You don't want to give up on doing the right thing, but you don't want to get caught up in the politics either. Well know this: We stand with you. We support you, and we have your back.
I don’t know what comes next, but know that you are not alone. Georgia is a state that proudly backs the blue. We value these public servants and pray for them daily. We remember those who died in the line of duty and their families who still mourn their passing. It is impossible to describe the magnitude of their loss, which I’ve experienced firsthand attending the funerals of nine officers we’ve lost in just the last year-and-a-half.
There’s no doubt that we have a lot of work to do as a state, to live up to our highest ideals and reach our full potential. I’m confident that together, we can get there. With your help and continued support, we can build a safer, stronger and more prosperous state for all Georgians. God bless our peacemakers, and the communities they protect.