ATLANTA - The Atlanta police chief has responded to calls he reverses his decision to continue putting on-duty officers in DeKalb County to protect a construction site of the future Atlanta Public Safety Training Center.
"There are those who want to harm my officers," Schierbaum stated forcefully.
He was referring to the months of protests launched by activists from here and around the nation who say the site should be preserved for environmental and historic reasons. The latest happened in early March when police say violent protesters, under the guise of going to a nearby concert, found their way to the site, setting equipment on fire, and throwing makeshift explosives at officers.
Council member Antonio Lewis was just as adamant that the redeployment is hurting neighborhood crime fighting and the moral of officers who are spending twelve hours a day doing little to nothing but standing guard.
"I want to get officers off a Key Road as much as you do councilman," Schierbaum said, "and as soon as the threat goes away, we will be able to do that."
Work is on its way for the 85-acre site which will house a "mock village" for police and firefighters to train in different public safety scenarios. Police officials say the state-of-the-art campus would replace substandard offerings and boost police morale.
Opponents of the training center have been protesting since 2021 by building platforms in surrounding trees and camping out at the site. They say that the project, which would be built by the Atlanta Police Foundation, involves cutting down so many trees that it would be environmentally damaging. Many activists also oppose spending so much money on a police facility that would be surrounded by poor, majority-Black neighborhoods in a city with one of the nation’s highest degrees of wealth inequality.