Atlanta City Council Approves Public Safety Training Center Funding

After hours of public comment which yielded dramatically conflicting views of the proposed Center and predicted consequences of its construction, the Atlanta City Council voted to approve millions of dollars for the development of what has been consistently categorized in reporting as the “controversial” Atlanta Public Safety Training Center.

Public comment lasted more than 13 hours. The hours were drenched in contentious arguments and assertions. Hundreds of residents took to the podium to besmirch and condemn the project. Training Center opponent alleged the center “would be a gross misuse of public funds,” seemingly because the center would be in a “large urban forest in a poor, majority-Black area.”

Perhaps representative of the mindset and arguments of opponents of the training center, reporting disclosed that “Six hours into the meeting, Emory University religion professor Sara McClintock took to the podium and pleaded with councilmembers to reject, or at least rethink, the training center.” After bluntly asserting “We don’t want it,” McClintock explained the basis of her opposition. “We don’t want it because it doesn’t contribute to life.” McClintock added that the training center is not “an institution of peace.” McClintock concluded: “It’s not a way forward for our city that we love.”

The training center, which was approved by the Atlanta City Council in September 2021, has drawn opposition from the start. City officials say the new 85-acre campus would replace inadequate current training facilities and would help address difficulties in hiring and retaining police officers that worsened after nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice three years ago.

As reported, “The testimony at times grew testy, with councilmembers struggling to quiet the rowdy crowd.” After enduring the hours of comments, “Shortly before 5: 30 a.m. Tuesday, having exhausted all speakers, the City Council passed the vote 11 to 4.” Opponents booed. The no votes came from Jason Dozier, Liliana Bakhtiari, Keisha Sean Waites, and Antonio Lewis. As the vote was being called, the crowd, or at least some of it, broke into the chant of “Cop City will never be built.”

The rhetoric of the opponents of the training center was dramatic. For example, Matthew Johnson, the executive director of Beloved Community Ministries, accused the city council of being “unresponsive” and “hostile.” Johnson’s Ministries is referred to as a “local social justice nonprofit. “Johnson further accused the city council of advancing “environmental racism” and further exclaimed the vote for the center would advance “the militarization of the police.” Johnson claimed that the community’s “basic needs” were not addressed, and alleged the city used the police “as the sole solution to all of our social problems.”

In a statement to FOX 5, Atlanta Mayor Dickens said the approval was a “major milestone for better preparing our fire, police, and emergency responders to protect and serve our communities.” Dickens acknowledged the feelings and opinions of the opponents, which he described as “passionate.” Dickens thanked the project opponents for exercising their First Amendment rights in a “peaceful manner.” Dickens said, “Atlanta is made up of people who care.” Dickens added he is “committed to  building trust,” adding he “looks forward to continuing the conversation in the weeks ahead.”

D & B Staff

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Episode 89