But the logic of this is confounding: One of the major proposals coming out of the Black Lives Matter protests was improved training for police in techniques like de-escalation and simulations to help police respond effectively and appropriately in high-stress, high-stakes situations. This kind of training for police should lead to better, more thoughtful policing - not worse. Further, as far as I or anyone on the outside can tell, absolutely no one who is at the table has the remotest interest in training that would lead to “militarization.” The training center has been a long-term project of the Black leadership of Atlanta and will support police trainees and continuing education for police, many of whom themselves are likely to be Black.
Prior to George Floyd’s death, as I was campaigning for the 7th Congressional District, I heard many concerns about “driving while Black” and other well-founded anxiety about police brutality, but I also heard significant concerns from Black voters, particularly those who lived in low-income areas, that they didn’t have enough police to keep their neighborhoods safe. The goal of having good policing – where everyone has confidence in our police and feels safe in their community -- is quite different from no policing or underfunded and poorly-trained police, which is the alternative that the protesters seem to be proposing.
On a policy level, the protest does not make a lot of sense, but worse, this issue has the potential to do extensive damage to the city and to critical Democratic causes. Should the protesters succeed in bringing down the law enforcement center, I would not be surprised if this breathes new life into the Buckhead secession movement. If crime ticks back up in the city, I’m sure the protest will be blamed. And I am pretty confident that this will continue to alienate suburban swing voters who despise Donald Trump but look at the law enforcement center and the “defund the police” protests as the Democrats’ own form of crazy.
Meanwhile, other critical causes languish: hundreds of thousands of Georgians don’t have health insurance, hospitals are closing and gun violence is rampant. If protesters are intent on throwing themselves on a grenade for a cause, how about one of these? These are issues that have a much broader base of support and I would wager even a modest win on any one of them would go further to saving Georgians’ lives, including Black lives, than taking down a well-intentioned effort to better train Atlanta’s police.
Carolyn Bourdeaux is a former member of Congress from Georgia’s 7th District.