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'Cop City' Training Center Proposal Draws Support, Opposition

ATLANTA, Ga. (CW69 News at 10) -- The City of Atlanta is considering leasing land in DeKalb County to the Atlanta Police Foundation to build a police training facility, but several organizations are against it, calling it "Cop City."

Atlanta police have trained officers in temporary facilities for years. "We have to use other departments' training villages. We have to use the State of Georgia's training facility, so we're on a calendar," said Deputy Chief Darin Schierbaum. APD says the proposed Public Safety Training Center would usher in a new chapter of morale, recruitment and retention. "We're excited, because first class cities have first class investment in their training, in their public safety first responders," he said. "Training is the lifeblood of any public safety organization."

The proposed facility would sit on 85 acres around an existing facility on Key Road and include a well-equipped environment for repetitive training. However, several organizations oppose it. "We're talking about spending millions of taxpayer dollars to fund another failed proposal that will only line the pockets of wealthy people and not actually address the issues of our day," said James Woodall, a policy associate with Southern Center for Human Rights. "City council members have even admitted that this will not impact crime," he added.

After a tumultuous year of police brutality cases and violent crimes, opponents say there's a better solution. "What we're asking for is a concerted effort and an invested commitment to putting the public's resources into communities: mental health, education, crime prevention and intervention," said Woodall. SCHR said a few provable solutions include improving court notifications to support bail reform initiatives, closing the Atlanta City Detention Center, ending police quotas, incentivizing pre-arrest diversion and utilizing alternatives to policing.

Some organizations say defunding the police is a solution. "[It's] taking resources from police so that they're not first responders when it comes to homelessness, so they're not first responders when it comes to people having mental health issues," said Kamau Franklin, the director of Community Movement Builders. He says a new facility won't address the issues. "Instead of focusing on real issues of safety for the community, they're trying to change the narrative and give a gift to the police in order to make them feel better," said Franklin. "I don't thing the issue is police morale. It is police brutality. It is police violence. It is police harassment," he said.

Those who support the proposed facility disagree. "We have a responsibility to the citizens of this city. We will respond to every emergency that could occur on their street, and training is how it happens," said Schierbaum.

A virtual public informational hearing was scheduled for this Thursday evening. City Council is expected to vote on the proposal next week.

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