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Op-Ed: Recent events at Emory highlight need for Atlanta Public Safety Training Center

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Recent events at Emory University have put the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center (APSTC) squarely back in focus after pro-Palestinian protesters on campus took the opportunity to re-up their opposition to the facility, pejoratively known as “Cop City.” Comically, their demonstration made the case for having well-trained, highly qualified officers on the police force, which is exactly what the APSTC would promote.

While there were little to no major issues with the way the Atlanta Police Department handled the situation – after all, the demonstrators illegally set up an encampment on campus and resisted arrest, leaving officers with no choice but to use force – it certainly doesn’t hurt for officers to have the best possible training at their disposal. And to the dismay of the protesters, most Atlantans support the construction of the facility.

A recent Kennesaw State survey of the Atlanta metro area found crime was the top concern of respondents, including among Black and Hispanic participants. This is a significant finding, as national polling has consistently shown inflation to be the primary concern of respondents for quite some time now. Clearly, many Atlanta residents do not feel safe, and understandably so.

According to the most recent FBI crime statistics, violent crime reported by the Atlanta Police Department has increased by 37% since the pandemic. Homicides have increased 140% since 2019, and aggravated assaults have spiked by 55%. While there were some decreases in crime year-over-year in 2023, violent crime in Atlanta remains well above pre-pandemic levels. In fact, Atlanta was one of the few cities that saw a year-over-year increase in murders from April 2023 to April 2024.

Fortunately, help is on the way, as the APSTC is on track to be completed by the end of the year. The best way to curb crime and also keep citizens safe from police overreach is through rigorous training, to include modern practices in harm reduction and community engagement, which is exactly what the APSTC will aim to do. The facility will also be used to train other critical public servants such as civilian responders, EMS, firefighters and 911 operators.

In response to the prudent decision to build this training center to better train police officers who risk their lives every day to protect their community, radical progressive activists have strongly, and in many cases violently, opposed construction of the facility. The so-called “Stop Cop city” movement is responsible for at least 23 acts of arson that have destroyed or damaged 81 items involved in the construction of the facility. The destruction and work stoppages caused by these instances have increased the cost of the project by almost $20 million.

But the training facility’s most serious threat is not the physical danger posed by anti-police activists. The greatest danger to the future of policing in Atlanta is a ballot measure that could kill the facility altogether. A group called “Vote to Stop Cop City” launched an effort to repeal an ordinance approved by the Atlanta City Council that leases land to the Atlanta Police Foundation to be used for the construction of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center. Even though completion of the facility is slated for the end of 2024, these activists are forging ahead.

While the Atlanta Stop Cop City referendum has faced significant legal headwinds, organizers are still attempting to oppose the initiative as evidenced by the protest at Emory. Should they somehow succeed in getting the measure on the ballot, Atlantans must soundly and overwhelmingly reject this effort not only to ensure Atlanta’s police are properly trained, but also to show that violence and anarchy are not acceptable forms of political action.

In addition, local public officials should continue to voice their support for the facility and educate the public about its benefits. That’s why Our America is organizing its grassroots members to attend the public meeting at Atlanta City Council on May 20 to urge local officials to persist in their support for the facility.

Police training is a worthy investment, for police officers and citizens alike. If it comes down to it, Atlantans should finish the job by defeating the Stop Cop City movement once and for all at the ballot box.