Atlanta Public Safety Training Center funding gets greenlight from finance committee

Plans for a $90-million training center for Atlanta first responders took a step closer to becoming reality. A city council committee Wednesday approved funding for the site critics call "Cop City". The vote comes as a well-organized campaign by detractors continue to call on city officials not to move forward with the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center.

The finance committee voted 5-1 to approve a plan for Atlanta to pay its share of more than $30 million.

Committee member James Winston abstained and Committee member Liliana Bakhtiari was the sole "no" vote. 

"My district does not want this. I still lack clarity on some of the funding aspects. [I have] a lot of questions that have not been answered," Bakhtiari said. "The city did not do a good job of messaging around this. We gave out a lot of mixed information. We didn’t know who was driving this project. There were missed signals between different entities."

Atlanta police want to build the training center near Intrenchment Creek Park in DeKalb County, sparking nearly two years of protests from people who opposed the facility.

Hundreds of critics crowded last week’s city council meeting to speak out against the training center. Far fewer members of the public showed up at the finance committee meeting, but they were just as impassioned. 

"Dear god, stop Cop City," said one opponent.

"Please save Welaunee. Please stop Cop City," said another.

Dozens of officers lined the hallways at City Hall for Wednesday’s meeting. A row of seats in the council chamber, normally open to the public, had been blocked off. 

Some speakers accused police of closing the seats to squelch public opposition.

"These seats have been marked as reserved for Atlanta Police Department," said one critic. "They are currently empty and not available for citizens to sit in at this point. We see over 60 police officers in the atrium in response to people wanting to come and talk." 

Bakhtiari says council members should have handled the situation better.

"We did not need that many officers today. I appreciate them wanting to take our safety seriously. We did not need to do all of that. I don’t put that on the officers. I put that on all of us, better coordinating and communicating with each other. We put them in that position and we shouldn’t all the time. We should do a better job of planning," said Bakhtiari.

A statement from APD stating it cannot release the number of officers at the meeting. APD says the seats were reserved for city employees and it was not responsible for the seating.

APD also says officers were at the meeting to ensure "an orderly environment and the safety of those exercising their First Amendment right."

The plan goes to full council on June 5.