Officials reach deal to move Atlanta public safety training center forward
Controversy has enveloped the proposed facility since it was first proposed in 2021.
ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - An agreement has been reached over Atlanta’s controversial public safety training center that, according to local officials, “will protect and enhance the surrounding environment, spur local business and job development and serve as a community resource.”
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Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens and DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond announced a “memorandum of understanding and statement of principle provide several commitments that serve priority areas for the city of Atlanta and DeKalb County.”
Read the full land-use permit and arrangement below.
Dickens discussed the opportunities he believes the training center will bring to the Atlanta community. Among the initiatives mentioned was de-escalation training, community watch groups and advanced training for local officers.
Controversy has enveloped the proposed Atlanta Public Safety Training Center since it was first proposed. Earlier this month the fatal police shooting of Manuel Paez Terán, a protestor who allegedly shot and wounded a Georgia State Patrol officer at the site, led to several violent protests in downtown.
RELATED: Out-of-state activists fueling training center protests, KSU prof says
Law enforcement officials said they were conducting a clearing operation near the site when someone opened fire on the officers and troopers. The shooter was then shot by law enforcement and was pronounced dead at the scene.
The trooper, who was shot in the abdomen, was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital.
Tuesday’s announcement comes the same day as People Vs. Fossil Fuels, a coalition that said it contains more than 1,200 climate justice groups, called for Dickens’ resignation over the shooting and an independent investigation into the incident.
“Over a week has passed since the murder of Terán, and Mayor Dickens has still failed to condemn the killing of the innocent 26-year-old by police, instead opting to condemn protestors and parrot the rhetoric of extreme right-wing governor, Brian Kemp,” the group’s letter read. “As a growing number of Atlanta residents, national and global news outlets, and human rights and environmental organizations worldwide call for an investigation of the police narrative of Tortugita’s death, Dickens has dismissed their concerns. He has refused to bring any scrutiny to the one-sided and unsubstantiated recounting of events. Dickens has yet to offer condolences to the slain protestor’s family.”
“We are not accepting this. This is not progress. This is not a compromise and the fight continues,” protestor Jasmine Burnett told Atlanta News First outside of City Hall on Tuesday.
RELATED: Georgia’s Attorney General prosecuting 18 demonstrators charged with domestic terrorism
The 85-acre property is owned by the city of Atlanta but located in DeKalb County’s south river forest, once home to the old Atlanta prison farm.
In 2015, the Atlanta Police Foundation was tasked into looking into what a training center would look like and what it would cost.
In April 2021, then-Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced a plan to turn the forested land into a public safety training facility that would include a shooting range, a mock village and a burn center.
RELATED: A timeline of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center
Opposition quickly arose from environmental groups, neighborhood associations and racial justice groups. Despite public outcry, the Atlanta city council gave the $90-million project a green light in September 2021.
“While this is an issue about the environment, this is also an issue about the militarization of police. If they don’t do that in the forest and they do that somewhere else, it’s still working class black and brown communities that are going to be terrorized that cops will be learning at this urban warfare training facility,” Burnett said.
By January 2022, activists and organizers who had dubbed the project “Cop City” began protesting at the site, with some even building shelters in trees to prevent the construction.
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