Atlanta City Council approves training center funding

More than 300 people lined up for public comment before the Atlanta City Council votes on funding for the public safety training center.
Published: Jun. 5, 2023 at 8:18 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 6, 2023 at 6:49 AM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - The Atlanta City Council has approved funding for the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center despite vocal opposition.

The council voted 11-4 in favor of the funding, which could be as much as $67 million.

Many critics of the facility derisively call it “Cop City.” The vote came after several hours of public comment; more than 300 people spoke on the project during the public comment period.

“I am done with the niceties. I do not need your cell phone number, I need y’all to listen, and the people in my community matt are staying stop Cop City,” said Shannon Cofrin Gaggero, during Monday’s public comment period.

The public funding was expected to pass despite the outcry on Monday against public funding.

Councilmember Keisha Sean Waites told Atlanta News First that she believed four councilmembers would vote against the project, leaving 11 voting for the public funding.

Another council member also told Atlanta News First on background that they believed the final vote would either be 11-4 or 10-5 in support of publicly funding the training facility.

On Monday, in a breakout interview during the public comment period, Councilmember Michael Julian Bond said he would vote in support of it because he believes the obligation of new training facilities outweighs the opposition against the project.

Atlanta News First asked Council President Doug Shipman ahead of the public comment period if the Council had already made up its mind.

“I think a lot of their minds are made up, but I’m not going to comment specifically because I don’t want to be seen as putting my thumb on the scale,” said Shipman. “I’m there to make sure it runs smoothly and obviously break a tie if necessary.”

The City of Atlanta will be responsible for $67 million in taxpayer spending for the project, including $30 million in a one-time capital investment to the Atlanta Police Foundation for the ongoing development of the project.

In addition, the City will pay $1 million towards a new gymnasium on the site.

Also, the City will be on the hook for a lease-back agreement with the Police Foundation. The terms of that agreement are $1.2 million annually for the next 30 years.

“Sixty million, seventy million towards a police training facility instead of funding the people’s needs is absolutely injustice. It is injustice of the working-class people,” opponent Jermaine Stubbs said.

The far majority of those who spoke to the council were opposed to public funding of the project.

“Instead make investments that are necessary to create truly public safety. Invest in affordable housing, invest in affordable healthcare,” said Gary Spencer with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

In addition to the 357 people who signed up, the Council passed a motion to allow those who were still waiting in line to sign up but were unable to still be able to give comments after the initial comment period.

“We should have been prepared to accept the people today,” said Councilmember Andrea Boone, reacting to those initially turned away from being able to speak.

The Atlanta City Council is set to vote on whether or not to fund the public safety training center.

The outcries extended from inside City Hall to outside in downtown Atlanta.

For hours on end, chanting could be heard in the streets of Atlanta outside City Hall.

“What good is it training if the police officer that you’re training is already a bad police officer on the street? Not all police officers are bad police officers but what we in the community want is for the bad officers to be off the street,” Opponent Queen K said.

Hundreds of people lined up outside Atlanta City Hall in hopes of getting inside for public comment. City Hall even changed its policy and would not allow gels or liquids inside out of an abundance of caution over explosives.

The City of Atlanta will be responsible for $67 million in taxpayer spending for the project.

“There’s going to be officers who slip through the cracks and officers who get weak and have a moment of weakness and might lose their temper. That’s all improved by training,” Supporter Lou Arcangeli said.

“The police officer who murdered Rayshard Brooks had hours and hours of training, the police officers who shot Jamarion Robinson over 100 times had hours and hours of training and when we talk about bad apples, bad apples come from rotten trees. The whole institution is rotten to its core,” Opponent Mary Hooks said.

Amid everything happening outside, there was a large police presence, and everything remained peaceful into the evening hours and overnight.

“We’re spending millions on this that could be put into reimagining a way to do things besides beefing up force,” opponent Chad Hale said.

The vote took place just before 5:30 a.m. Tuesday morning. Afterward, the council chambers got heated, but no arrests were reported.