Dozens of protesters gathered Sunday, as the Atlanta City Council is expected to vote on a massive police training facility that supporters argue is necessary to train a new class of officers amid staffing shortages following a year of anti-police demonstrations in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
The proposal, first put forward by City Councilmember Joyce Sheperd, would grant the Atlanta Police Foundation, a nonprofit organization that funds high priority projects designed to fight and prevent crime in Atlanta neighborhoods, permission to build a state of the art public safety training campus to be used by the Atlanta Police Department on 381 acres in Dekalb County, Georgia.
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Just 85 acres will be developed for the facility, amended down from the initial 150 acres to be leased to the nonprofit, after residents during listening sessions last week voiced concerns about preserving additional green space. Sheperd argued to Fox 5 Atlanta that the city was in dire need of such facility, as its police force faces a morale crisis, staffing shortages and an uptick in violent crime.
As the force is short at least 200 officers, she said residents in neighborhoods affected by violent crime want the facility to train more police.
“Where our police officers are right now in terms of their facilities, we’ve had to move them out,” she said. “The facilities are a dump, and we literally had to move them out because of mold, mildew, sewage overrun, leaking buildings.”
The group “Stop Cop City” organized the protest outside City Hall. Activists gathered there on Sunday said the training facility will only harm relationships with Black and Brown communities. Others opposed to its creation said the amendments won’t do enough to offset negative impacts on the environment in the area, as parcels of trees will still need to be removed.
“If corporate developers have $80 million for Cop City, then somehow the city should be able to pull in this money to actually address community needs,” Shafeka Hashash, chair of the Atlanta chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, told Fox 5. “We don’t believe that better-trained police officers is what the solution is to any of this. We in fact believe that if that funding does exist, it should go into community support and actually meeting the needs of community.”
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The proposal was further deliberated Sunday and will go for a vote Monday afternoon.
“Every meeting the community is talking about crime, how high it is, where are the police?” Sheperd said. “We’re short over 200 police in the city of Atlanta and don’t have a facility that we could train them.”
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