Inside Atlanta’s public safety training center; public cost of the project already underway

Inside Atlanta's police training center
Published: May. 26, 2023 at 7:26 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - On Friday, leaders of the Atlanta Police and Fire Departments led media on a tour of the site of the planned public safety training center in DeKalb County.

This was the first time media have been allowed on the site of this project, what critics call ‘Cop City.’

Marshall Freeman, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for the Atlanta Police Department, said clearing of the 85-acre site is complete.

Construction will begin in earnest in mid-August and the City has a soft opening date of December 2024.

“When you walk around you do see what’s coming and I am excited for the officers, and I’m excited for the citizens because they too know they’re invested in this,” said Atlanta’s Chief of Police, Darin Schierbaum.

On June 5, the Atlanta City Council will vote on a resolution to allocate $31 million in public funding to the Atlanta Police Foundation for the ongoing development of the project.

In addition, in a lease-back agreement with APF, the City will also pay the Foundation roughly $1.2 million annually for the next 30 years, according to LaChandra Burks, Deputy COO for the City of Atlanta.

The City sees this as a neutralized cost, and not an additional cost, as the City is already paying roughly $1.4 million annually for operation costs at other facilities to train police and fire personnel.

Some see this $36 million (1.2 million over 30 years) as an added cost to the Atlanta Police Foundation, which would bring the overall city commitment to $67 million.

The council will vote on this public funding on June 5 during a council meeting that is expected to garner immense public pushback.

On Friday, leaders showed media where the main educational and leadership facility, with 13 classrooms, will be built.

Officials said this will be the first of the buildings to be erected.

Media also walked through the site of the old Atlanta Prison Farm, what will be developed into a 125-acre park accessible for the public.

Many critics say the site will lead to the militarization of police.

On Friday, Chief Schierbaum refuted this claim.

“The facts have said that’s not true,” said Chief Schierbaum. “The facts have said that when we prepare our men and women to respond to your living room, to your store, to your park that it’s done in an environment that it reflects the realism, and reflects the first-class training that’s needed to safely navigate those emergencies,” Schierbaum said.

The City, Atlanta Police Foundation, and project contractor are facing ongoing legal disputes that they began clearing the site in a way that violated environmental protections law.

In February, a judge rejected a request to halt the project’s development over these environmental concerns.

On Friday, a project planner said they’re in compliance with all environmental protections laws.

“Not only do we meet the letter of every law which is why we believe the judge ruled in our favor, we met the law, we’re doing above the law, we’re doing the right approach to this,” said Bob Hughes with HGOR.