Where do Atlanta candidates stand on police and fire training center proposal?

The site for the proposed Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, located along Key Road in DeKalb County. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

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The site for the proposed Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, located along Key Road in DeKalb County. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Attention on the proposal to build a new Atlanta police and fire training center on forested, city-owned land has swelled ahead of an expected City Council vote on Tuesday.

The facility would be built across 85 acres at the site of the old Atlanta prison farm, just outside city limits in unincorporated DeKalb County.

While supporters say a new training center is critical given the poor state of the city’s current training locations, critics say the Atlanta Police Foundation — which would lease the land from the city to build the center — rushed through the public engagement process and should consider other sites that wouldn’t disturb greenspace. Activists argue a new training facility won’t lead to a drop in crime, and city resources would be better allocated elsewhere.

ExploreSeptember: City Council approves police training center at old Atlanta prison farm

Just over two months out from the election for Atlanta’s next mayor and City Council, candidates running for top offices in Atlanta are staking out positions on the controversial issue. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution asked the five leading candidates running for mayor and four running for City Council president for their thoughts on the proposal.

Several criticized the public input process the police foundation followed, but most supported the need for a new training center for Atlanta’s first responders.

Among the candidates, Natalyn Archibong, Antonio Brown and Andre Dickens are sitting councilmembers and will vote on the proposal.

Of the three, Brown was the only one to come out against the proposal, saying he would rescind any agreement the city makes if elected mayor. Archibong and Dickens haven’t taken firm stands on the proposal, and said they will wait to hear more public feedback before Tuesday’s vote.

ExploreSE Atlanta neighborhoods: Don’t build police training facility on old prison farm site

Council President Felicia Moore, who only votes in the event of a tie, said she would break a tie in favor of the training center, though she expressed disappointment in the public input process.

Here are the written responses from the candidates:

Candidates for mayor

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Atlanta mayoral candidates (from left) Antonio Brown, Andre Dickens, Sharon Gay, Felicia Moore and Kasim Reed participate in a candidate forum in July. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Atlanta mayoral candidates (from left) Antonio Brown, Andre Dickens, Sharon Gay, Felicia Moore and Kasim Reed participate in a candidate forum in July. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

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Atlanta mayoral candidates (from left) Antonio Brown, Andre Dickens, Sharon Gay, Felicia Moore and Kasim Reed participate in a candidate forum in July. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Antonio Brown

“I do not support these plans and several of the NPUs have collectively passed resolutions in opposition of building a police training facility on the Old Atlanta Prison Farm land. As mayor, I will rescind any agreement entered into by the city and will not take a rushed and reactive approach addressing this matter. This facility will have no effect on the crime happening in Atlanta, this narrative being perpetuated alluding to this is absolutely absurd and our residents deserve better.”

Andre Dickens

“The vote for the proposal is scheduled for the September 7th council meeting. Until then, I will continue to solicit input from community stakeholders and public safety officials to better inform my decision.”

Sharon Gay

“I support the eventual development of the 85-acre public safety training center as it will provide a state-of-the-art facility to replace the atrocious facilities now available for training our police and fire recruits.

Some of the public concerns about the training center result from the relative lack of information about what is proposed. The city and the Police Foundation must make a concerted effort to make all pertinent information easily available while reassuring the public of their commitment to the respectful and beneficial stewardship of all the subject land and its history.”

Felicia Moore

“I’m incredibly disappointed with the amount of public input on this project. As mayor, I would have created a robust process, and it’s why we, as the Council, required the city to spend 60 days soliciting public responses. Community input has resulted in a reduction of the footprint for this facility from 150 acres to 85 acres, plus a commitment to replace 100 planted trees for each tree removed. Also, there will be an advisory group made up of community and other representatives to discuss the final plan.

As President of City Council, I do not vote unless there is a tie. If a tie occurs, I would vote yes. Our current facilities are falling apart, and we desperately need a facility equipped to provide modern, community-centered training for police officers. As our next mayor, I will continue to listen to those who have concerns and those who are in opposition, and I will work to ensure that the city commits to preserving the remaining 215 acres for greenspace in the manner the community envisions.”

Kasim Reed

“I support the development of a best-in-class training facility for our police officers, but I have not made a judgement on where it should be located. I believe this decision should be made after a thoughtful and collaborative process that includes residents and community stakeholders. We should take every concern into consideration and make a concentrated effort to make a decision that is in the best interest of the future of our city.”

Candidates for City Council president

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The candidates for Atlanta City Council president at a recent forum. From left, Natalyn Archibong, Courtney English, Mike Russell and Doug Shipman.

Credit: Ben Gray/For the AJC

The candidates for Atlanta City Council president at a recent forum. From left, Natalyn Archibong, Courtney English, Mike Russell and Doug Shipman.

Credit: Ben Gray/For the AJC

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The candidates for Atlanta City Council president at a recent forum. From left, Natalyn Archibong, Courtney English, Mike Russell and Doug Shipman.

Credit: Ben Gray/For the AJC

Credit: Ben Gray/For the AJC

Natalyn Archibong

“This vote is arguably one of the most important votes the City Council will take in this term. I introduced the motion to delay (table) the vote until the September 7, 2021 meeting so that we could consider other alternatives and better understand this proposal. In addition, I wanted to be sure the community had more opportunity to be heard. I am partnering with other elected officials to host a public information session and overview so that everyone will have the same information. I look forward to receiving more community input on this proposal, and to thereafter making my decision on how to cast my vote.”

Courtney English

“This process was bungled from the start. While I do believe we need a new facility to train police, I do not support the development of this land in this way. The plan, hatched in secret, continues without community involvement or the needed shift to community-based public safety efforts. The lack of public input into this process erodes public trust in the development of large scale projects in our communities. I’m confident new leadership on the council can create a facility that meets our public safety needs, protects our greenspace, and honors the expressed wishes of the people of Atlanta.”

Mike Russell

“I fully support the completion of the Atlanta fire and police training center. We all want better trained emergency service personnel so we must provide them the proper facilities to conduct that training. The APF (Atlanta Police Foundation) has addressed the concerns about noise. Only a third of the property will be used for the training center and the rest will be open for public use with nature trails. The plan provides a good balance.”

Doug Shipman

“New training facilities are clearly needed for Atlanta Police and Fire & Rescue but the opaque process of site selection and the lack of community engagement has fallen short of what is needed for a project of this importance. The environmental impact of the current proposal is also too high given Atlanta has long been lacking in greenspace for a city our size. There is a good solution to be found through a bit more work by all stakeholders and with residents.”

ExploreThe Atlanta Mayor's Race: Full coverage by the AJC
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August 17, 2021 Atlanta - Former Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed speaks to members of the press after filing paperworks for November 2nd Atlanta Mayoral Election outside the Atlanta City Hall on Tuesday, August 17, 2021. Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore and former Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed filed paperwork and qualified as a candidate in the November 2nd Atlanta Mayoral Election. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

August 17, 2021 Atlanta - Former Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed speaks to members of the press after filing paperworks for November 2nd Atlanta Mayoral Election outside the Atlanta City Hall on Tuesday, August 17, 2021. Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore and former Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed filed paperwork and qualified as a candidate in the November 2nd Atlanta Mayoral Election.  (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

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August 17, 2021 Atlanta - Former Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed speaks to members of the press after filing paperworks for November 2nd Atlanta Mayoral Election outside the Atlanta City Hall on Tuesday, August 17, 2021. Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore and former Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed filed paperwork and qualified as a candidate in the November 2nd Atlanta Mayoral Election. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

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August 17, 2021 Atlanta - Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore, speaks to members of the press after filing paperworks for November 2nd Atlanta Mayoral Election outside the Atlanta City Hall on Tuesday, August 17, 2021. Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore and former Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed filed paperwork and qualified as a candidate in the November 2nd Atlanta Mayoral Election. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

August 17, 2021 Atlanta - Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore, speaks to members of the press after filing paperworks for November 2nd Atlanta Mayoral Election outside the Atlanta City Hall on Tuesday, August 17, 2021. Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore and former Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed filed paperwork and qualified as a candidate in the November 2nd Atlanta Mayoral Election.  (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

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August 17, 2021 Atlanta - Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore, speaks to members of the press after filing paperworks for November 2nd Atlanta Mayoral Election outside the Atlanta City Hall on Tuesday, August 17, 2021. Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore and former Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed filed paperwork and qualified as a candidate in the November 2nd Atlanta Mayoral Election. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

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080421 Atlanta: Mayoral candidate attorney Sharon Gay takes questions during a mayoral debate hosted by The Young Democrats of Atlanta at Manuel’s Tavern on Wednesday, August 4, 2021, in Atlanta. “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

080421 Atlanta: Mayoral candidate attorney Sharon Gay takes questions during a mayoral debate hosted by The Young Democrats of Atlanta at Manuel’s Tavern on Wednesday, August 4, 2021, in Atlanta.   “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

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080421 Atlanta: Mayoral candidate attorney Sharon Gay takes questions during a mayoral debate hosted by The Young Democrats of Atlanta at Manuel’s Tavern on Wednesday, August 4, 2021, in Atlanta. “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

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Andre Dickens

Andre Dickens

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Andre Dickens

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080421 Atlanta: Mayoral candidate Councilman Antonio Brown takes questions during a mayoral debate hosted by The Young Democrats of Atlanta at Manuel’s Tavern on Wednesday, August 4, 2021, in Atlanta. “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

080421 Atlanta: Mayoral candidate Councilman Antonio Brown takes questions during a mayoral debate hosted by The Young Democrats of Atlanta at Manuel’s Tavern on Wednesday, August 4, 2021, in Atlanta.   “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

caption arrowCaption
080421 Atlanta: Mayoral candidate Councilman Antonio Brown takes questions during a mayoral debate hosted by The Young Democrats of Atlanta at Manuel’s Tavern on Wednesday, August 4, 2021, in Atlanta. “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

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