One year after thousands of people gathered in Atlanta to protest police brutality following the death of Rayshard Brooks, the Atlanta City Council has approved plans to lease 381 acres of land to the Atlanta Police Foundation. According to the Atlanta Intown Paper, the APF will use the land to build a 381-acre facility that includes a mock-up town, firefighter drill tower, firing range and much more. Nicknamed "Cop City" by local residents, The Intercept reports that the project will cost a total of $90 million with taxpayers covering one-third of the cost.
If plans to build "Cop City" move forward, Atlanta will have a larger police facility than those used by the New York Police Department and Los Angeles Police Department. According to The Intercept, the NYPD uses a 32-acre facility in Queens and the LAPD uses a 21-acre facility in Los Angeles County. Moreover, the NYPD and LAPD are two of the three largest police departments in the country while the Atlanta Police Department ranks 19th.
Atlanta Police Foundation CEO Dave Wilkinson reportedly said that 95% of Atlanta residents “overwhelmingly approve this project." However, he has provided no evidence of this to the public. In contrast, a number of residents, activists, organizers and elected officials have been vocally opposing this project for some time now.
One of the many concerns raised about this project is its environmental impact. Not only will it take up 381 acres of land, but it will also use up some of the city's only remaining greenspace.
“I think that we have not given enough attention to the environmental aspect of this and I don’t think we’ve given enough attention to our sister government in DeKalb County," Atlanta City Councilmember Jennifer Ide told the Atlanta Intown Paper.
"It continues to blow my mind every day that in the greatest era of human caging and environmental peril in modern history, the 'progressive' city council of a major U.S. city is planning to bulldoze a local forest to give a $90 million 'training' compound to cops," Civil Rights Corps Executive Director Alec Karakatsanisadded.
Another concern regarding the project involves the lack of input from community members. Multiple residents and activists have accused the Atlanta City Council and Atlanta Police Foundation of ignoring the voices of those who live in the area.
“[The APF] saw no need for public input despite the fact that the police deal with the public each and every day as part of their job. When private corporate donors are able to fund militarized training facilities for the police, they are essentially buying off the police. They are making it clear who the police work for," DeKalb County resident Brad Beadles told The Intercept.
“Nearly no one we’ve talked to is for Cop City,” lifelong Atlanta resident Kelsea Bond added.
Adding to the list of concerns regarding this project, many of the statements made by the APF and Dave Wilkinson could not be corroborated. For example, Wilkinson told reporters that every council member he spoke to "committed their support and committed their vote for the project." However, four members of the city council voted against his proposal. In another instance, The Interceptobtained APF materials regarding "Cop City" that indicated they consulted with Nature Conservancy about the environmental toll that the proposal may cause. Nature Conservancy Executive Director Deron Davis said that the APF's reference to his organization was “definitively disingenuous.” Not to mention, Wilkinson allegedly claimed that 95% of Atlanta residents supported the project while providing no evidence to back up his claim.
Rounding out the long list of concerns raised by Atlanta residents, journalist King Williamstweeted that building "Cop City" would be a "loss" for "housing and homeless activists looking for space and funds." In a state where nearly 10,000 people are left without shelter each night, "Cop City" could have been used to build shelters. Not to be forgotten, the state of Georgia is currently sorting through the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks and a number of other Black residents who have died at the hands of former and current members of law enforcement within the last two years.
Despite pushback from activists, journalists, councilmembers and community organizations, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp remains in support of building "Cop City" in DeKalb County. In fact, he sent a letter to Atlanta City Councilmembers urging them to vote in support of "Cop City" this week.
"The Atlanta City Council is in a unique position to support a new training facility for law enforcement and first responders. Increasing training and support for public safety personnel has united all sides of the political spectrum here in the Peach State in the past, and at a time when residents in our capital city are being plagued by a drastic rise in violent crime, I am encouraging the council to promptly approve this facility.
"Our capital city and surrounding metropolitan area are facing a crime crisis. That’s why I have dedicated additional state resources, including the Department of Public Safety’s Crime Suppression Unit and millions of emergency dollars in state funding, to support the Atlanta Police Department."
With the support of 10 city council members, the Atlanta Police Foundation and the governor, it appears that "Cop City" is going to be built in DeKalb County. However, there is no word as to when this project would be complete.