Atlanta Fire Rescue Department firefighter and EMT Sharunda Clark walked up to the dais inside Atlanta City Council chambers and spoke of her work training new recruits. A graduate of Morris Brown College and Atlanta native, Clark was there to publicly speak in favor of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, more commonly known as Cop City.
“I am very excited about having a training academy,” said Clark who spoke of the difficulty of having to bring trainees and new hires to training facilities in Douglasville, for example. Located on Wortham Road, the Douglas County Fire Department Training Facility sits on 10 acres and offers the capabilities necessary to properly train future and present firefighters and EMTs.
Clark and others that voiced their opinions at Monday’s regularly scheduled city council meeting believe Fulton County should have a similar opportunity to prepare their first responders in the same manner within county limits.
“We desperately need the training facility,” she continued. “Let’s stop calling it cop city. Let’s call it fireworks.”
During the public comment portion of the meeting a number of first responders, local business owners and everyday citizens took turns advocating for the training center’s existence and necessity. Mostly all who took the opportunity to speak, opponents included, believe the referendum should be on the ballot in November. Nate Bailey, another firefighter, echoed Clark’s sentiments, saying that the lives of firefighters were in the balance without a proper training facility. Bailey, who was there to represent the Georgia State Firefighters Association , brought a framed folded flag with him. He told the city council members that he recently presented a similar flag to the family of a fallen comrade.
Fulton County resident Mike Russell said the name “Cop City” is not representative of the overall project.
“Every time you hear somebody call it cop city you know they aren’t telling the truth,” he said. “We don’t want to become the next Chicago or Detroit.”
Russell was complimentary of the members of city council that “stood strong in the face of the antics that took place a week ago,” he said.
Ricky Brown, CEO and president of Next Step Staffing, an Atlanta-based staffing agency, took his two minutes to address the need for the training facility and the anti-cop city faction that sat in the back of the chamber during the meeting. Several times during public comments snickering and laughter could be heard coming from the section where some anti-cop city opponents sat.
“I am here in full support of the training center,” said Brown, who added that he didn’t care about what people were saying behind him. “I don’t want to live in a community where we don’t have trained police.”
Rachel Farmer, a local real estate agent and Fulton County resident asked the council to leave the ultimate decision in the hands of the people.
“It’s time for us to count the votes and let the people be heard,” Farmer said before returning to her seat.