Atlanta Mayor Dickens building task force for input on training center

Credit: Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens’s office announced Tuesday that it is building a new task force to address concerns surrounding the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center site.

The 40-member South River Forest and Public Safety Training Center Community Task Force will be comprised of four 10-person subgroups designed to study and make recommendations for the matters of green space, repurposing the former Atlanta Prison farm site, sustainability, and public safety training.

Dickens is planning to identify the task force members next month, the mayor’s office said. He will seek an initial set of recommendations from that group by July.

The city also plans to use the task force for input on ongoing community engagement, additional community uses of the site, and consideration of the site for memorials or other recognitions, the mayor’s office said.

Credit: Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

Atlanta’s training center property is leased to the Atlanta Police Foundation for the construction of the $90 million facility. The site is a former city prison farm that is currently forested land off Key Road in southwestern DeKalb County.

DeKalb issued the initial land disturbance permits for the 85-acre center in January.

However, the training center project has been met with controversy ever since former Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms introduced the plan in 2021. Atlanta City Council voted for the plan after 17 hours after public comments in September 2022.

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In January, a Georgia State Patrol trooper fatally shot Manuel Teran at the training site. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said Teran shot first and wounded the trooper amid the state’s efforts to remove protesters from the property. Days later, Atlanta police arrested six people in downtown Atlanta for firebombing a police car and shattering business windows.

Hannah Riley, the communications director for the Southern Center for Human Rights, said Atlanta already has “a tremendous amount” of feedback on the project that cannot be ignored.

“Community feedback is 17 hours of public comment, with the majority opposed. Community feedback is letters from faculty at both Spelman and Morehouse, denouncing the project. Community feedback is people living amongst the trees they hope to save,” Riley said on Tuesday. “Community feedback is people in the streets, demanding an end to state violence, not a shrine built to it.”

The Atlanta Police Foundation said in a statement that the new task force will help ensure the city’s South River Forest acreage will reflect the development and preservation concerns of the broader community as the project’s construction continues. Alison Clark, chair of the city’s community stakeholder advisory committee, said the task force is a step in the right direction.

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The Dickens administration said the task force will supplement the existing committee that helped the city add a minimum 100-foot tree buffer along the residential-facing aspects of the facility. The city also removed explosives training and disposal from the site thanks to that committee.

Additionally, the current committee updated the center plan with public parking for access to green space, a pavilion, and accessible meeting space. The city also plans to reduce the sound of gunfire and vehicular traffic on Key Road.

The mayor’s office said the city is adding security cameras, license plate readers, and streetlights around the site, as well. The city is also moving the firing range to the southern portion of the site away from residential areas, and adding sidewalks along Key Road for pedestrian traffic.



-AJC reporter Tyler Estep contributed to this report.