An overview of public engagement on ‘Cop City’

The City of Atlanta owns ~381 acres in unincorporated DeKalb County – the site of an old prison farm that was built on Indigenous Muscogee land, part of what is now called South River Forest. Surrounded by Black-majority neighborhoods, this land was envisioned as a park for communities – then the City decided to build a new $90M police, fire, and corrections training center.

SLS Signature Partner, The Center for Civic Innovation, created this explainer in order to better understand the history of community participation and engagement in this process to date–– something that is core to our mission of work to ensure that people’s needs and voices are at the center of local decision making. We encourage anyone who wants to share their support or concern for this process to our elected officials.

Here are 10 main takeaways:
(Follow us on Instagram or Twitter for updates)


  1. For decades, the community was led to believe that Atlanta’s old prison farm would become a public park. In 2002, through a community task force and in 2017 in the Atlanta City Design. None of these plans included a police training facility.

  2. For years, the Atlanta Police Foundation  a corporate-led, multi-million dollar nonprofit – worked in private with the Atlanta Police Department on plans for new training facilities at the old prison farm site.

  3. On April 1, 2021, the $90M plan for a training facility was announced.
    $30M will come from taxpayers; it is still unclear where public dollars will come from.

  4. In September 2021, the Atlanta City Council received 17 hours of public comment, mainly in opposition. They voted 10-4 to approve the lease with the Atlanta Police Foundation.

  1. The lease agreement is between the City of Atlanta and the Atlanta Police Foundation. City Council authorized the Mayor to sign the lease on behalf of the City. The City may terminate the lease at any time, with or without cause, with at least 180 days’ written notice.

    The approved legislation does not take away the City Council’s power to adopt new legislation that could amend or terminate the lease.

  1. The lease – only public after open records requests — is still missing information, including key dates and exhibits.

  2. Activists refer to the plan as “Cop City,” concerned the site will be used for “urban warfare” training.”

  3. Social justice, environmental, and Indigenous organizers warn that this facility will lead to increased police brutality and surveillance, as well as increase the potential for flooding and erosion in the area. These issues have historically had a disproportionate impact on Black communities in Atlanta, especially in the neighborhoods immediately surrounding the site.

  4. Hundreds of activists, faith leaders, Indigenous leaders, students, medical professionals, academics, and others have called on the City to terminate the lease.

  5. Mayor Dickens recently announced yet another task force focused on green space, sustainability, the training curriculum, and memorializing the site’s history.

Read the FULL ARTICLE here.