ATLANTA - Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum is doubling-down on the need for a new, state-of-the-art training facility for the city’s first responders.
The chief took the media on a tour of the Herbert T. Jenkins Atlanta Police Academy on Tuesday. Until 2021, recruits and veteran instructors were assigned to the building, which was an old school dating back to 1955. It is a facility he knows well, having previously served as the facility’s major.
"We had to go through the hallways to make sure that all the dead cockroaches were removed, that the traps that we had set out for the rats and for mice were cleared out, so this could be an inviting, clean and healthy space for the day," Chief Schierbaum described while walking the hallway.
The future site of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center in DeKalb County. (FOX 5)
"We’re going to pass shortly our showers, which got to the point it could not be used," the chief explained. "Sewage was backing up into those showers."
It could be called the "ugly tour," with Chief Schierbaum not needing to even point out the stains from water damage to walls, the molded over showers, and the vermin that scattered as the tour moved through the now-defunct facility.
"Because of safety reasons, we actually had to move out of here in August of 2021, because you could not drink the water, you could not use the showers, and the conditions of the building had become unsafe," the chief said.
Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum took the media on a tour of the old Atlanta Police Academy to highlight the need for the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center on May 23, 2023. (FOX 5)
While the images alone could make the chief’s case, opponents argue there is no legitimate reason why a new academy must be relocated to DeKalb County. The chief calls the new site is ideal for joint training with all first responders.
"You see here the lack of investment in public safety. That’s why I brought you here. For years, we have not spent the money we need to properly train our first responders to respond to active shooters," the chief said.
Chief Schierbaum touched on the shooting at a medical facility in Midtown Atlanta earlier this month. Five women were shot on May 3 at the Northside Medical Midtown building. The shooting claimed the life of 38-year-old Amy St. Pierre. The 24-year-old suspect would later be caught in Cobb County.
Two weeks later, first responders would conduct a mock active shooter drill at Oakland Cemetery. The training shut down the area for several hours. The chief says having a controlled environment, like the ones planned at the future Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, would meet the logistical needs for future training.
A partial crane collapse displaces at least 1,000 residents for fears of further damage to nearby Midtown Atlanta structures on May 22, 2023. (FOX 5)
The chief also used Monday’s construction accident in Midtown Atlanta, which displaced at least a 1,000 people, to highlight how the new center would benefit firefighters.
"Right now, we have a crane hanging precariously over Midtown. Do you want a fire department responding to that that has never been trained to mitigate that type of 30-story risk to that community?" the chief asked. "There is not a price tag that could be put on the life of one Atlantan."
Right now, the DeKalb County site is undergoing grading to prepare for construction. That is scheduled to begin in August. The new facility could be open by the end of 2024.