Environmental group files lawsuit to stop public safety training center's construction

An environmental group is suing again to stop Atlanta's controversial planned Public Safety Training Center just as a task force makes recommendations about the development to the Mayor's Office.

The complaint was filed by the South River Watershed Alliance Tuesday and names the City of Atlanta and the Atlanta Police Foundation, the facility's private planner, as defendants.

The group is seeking a court injunction halting sediment runoff from the DeKalb County site until the nearby Intrenchment Creek is capable of absorbing it.

A specific allegation accuses the foundation of beginning the site-clearing process without first installing the required sediment detention ponds.

"Increased suspended sediment and sedimentation has detrimental effects on fish and macroinvertebrates, including avoidance of sedimented areas, reduced physiological function, reproductive impairment, and mortality," the group wrote in part of the lawsuit.

The group was part of an earlier effort to stop construction over environmental concerns.

However, a judge ordered the Atlanta Police Foundation to pay for daily inspections at the site to make sure the project is causing as little disturbance to the land as possible.

Atlanta Public Safety Training Center task force recommendations

The new lawsuit comes at the same time that the South River Forest and Public Safety Training Center Task Force presented its dozens of recommendations to the office of Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens.

In a statement, the Mayor's Office says it will now review the recommendations and make a presentation in the next 30 days,"

"This work represents the very best of our city. It affirms a commitment to preserving accessible greenspace now and in the future. And it is vital to our north star of redefining and leading the nation in preparing fire-rescue, police and emergency medical service providers to better serve the diverse and vibrant neighborhoods that comprise our city," Dickens said.

However, opponents of the project, which they've given the nickname "Cop City," aren't convinced.

"While the task force continues to recognize that community input is essential, the City continues to ignore their wisdom by fighting tooth and nail against the voters of Atlanta being able to decide this issue for themselves, " said Kamau Franklin, tactical lead with the Cop City Vote Coalition. "Paying lip service to democracy while fighting it in court is just the latest demonstration of the disrespect that Mayor Dickens, the City Council, and APF have for the people of Atlanta. 

The presentation will be available at atltrainingcenter.com

Dickens and others say the planned $90 million training center would replace outdated training facilities and help address difficulties in hiring and retaining police officers that worsened after 2020’s nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice.

Opponents say they worry the facility will lead to greater militarization of the police and that its construction will exacerbate environmental damage in a poor, majority-Black area. Activists have been working to collect more than 70,000 signatures to force a referendum on building the project.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.