After 17-hours of mostly oppositional public comment, the Atlanta City Council has voted to lease 350 acres of City-owned land to the Atlanta Police Foundation. 85-acres of the property is slated to become a state-of-the-art police training facility, while the other 265 acres would be devoted to publicly accessible open space.
The 10-to-4 vote came after months of opposition from local organizations who decry the project as a threat to one of Atlanta’s last remaining open-spaces while furthering the militarization of Atlanta’s police, just a year after the nationwide 2020 protests against police brutality. The oppositional votes included Council Members Ide, Smith, Archibong and Brown, while the supporting votes included Council Members Bond, Boone, Westmoreland, Shook, Overstreet, Dickens, Winslow, Matzigkeit, Sheperd, and Hillis. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has continuously supported the project, claiming that holding police accountable and supporting them are “not mutually exclusive.”
For those who have missed the lead up to possibly the most controversial vote of the year at Atlanta City Council, the site of the new training facility would be on the Old Atlanta Prison Farm, located in unincorporated DeKalb County southeast of the City. The site would become an upgraded training facility for police and firefighters, and would include a faux city to be used for police training and a burn building for the fire department. The police plan to use the facility to test explosive weapons and urban crowd suppression techniques, which opponents state would pose a direct public safety hazard to the local community and further the militarization of the police force.
In a statement on Twitter, the City of Atlanta said that “the center will not only boost morale for APD and AFRD, it also will be a space where they will get 21st century training, rooted in respect and regard for the communities they serve.”
According to The Intercept, the Atlanta Police Foundation has proposed funding the training center through a public-private partnership that will bill Atlanta taxpayers an estimated $30 million, or one-third of the estimated cost. The rest of the bill would footed by the Foundation, which is backed by an a wide variety of corporate donors, chief among them is Cox Enterprises, who own the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.