Atlanta PD redirecting officers to help patrol protested police training site
Deputy Chief Timothy Peek said the redeployment will have “extreme minimal” impact to emergency responses in the rest of the city
By Riley Bunch and Tyler Estep
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
ATLANTA — The Atlanta Police Department has redirected officers to help patrol the planned site of the public safety training center in DeKalb County, following the shooting death of an environmental activist in an incident that also left a Georgia State Patrol trooper wounded.
It is unclear how many officers have been diverted to the area.
During an Atlanta City Council public safety committee meeting on Monday, APD Deputy Chief Timothy Peek told members that the redeployment will have “extreme minimal” impact to emergency responses in the rest of the city.
“We have placed some officers out there because of the violence that’s been at that particular location to ensure that the officers aren’t hurt, that the construction people — who are there doing the service on behalf of Atlanta Police Foundation and the build out — would be safe because there have been threats, there have been a lot of things going on,” Peek said. “But it’s a very small footprint of people that are out there with a good plan in place to ensure that everyone’s safe.”
His comments came a week after SWAT teams from Atlanta and DeKalb County police departments, as well as Georgia State Patrol troopers, cleared the woods in anticipation of construction of the $90 million facility.
That activity was on the heels of the Jan. 18 “clearing operation” that left a trooper wounded from a bullet to the abdomen, and activist Manuel “Tortuguita” Teran dead.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has accused Teran of firing first, and said a gun found at the scene was matched to the bullet that struck the trooper, whose name has not been released. GBI has also said Teran purchased the weapon in question.
The incident, though, was not captured on video. State troopers are generally not equipped with body cameras. The Atlanta Police Department recently released footage from its own officers in the area, but they do not show the shooting itself.
“Why do we have our officers out there? Is this something that we typically would do for a nonprofit or for a private organization?” District 12 Councilman Antonio Lewis asked Monday. The question suggested that the Atlanta Police Foundation, the nonprofit in charge of the project, should be on the hook for the additional security.
Peek told the committee that the department was in uncharted territory, and said he would discuss the matter with council members outside of the meeting.
“Quite frankly, I think this is a place that we’ve never been with the level of violence that we’ve had at that location,” Peek said.
In a statement to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, APD officials declined to disclose the number of officers shifted to the site, but said it includes members from every division.
“Commanders will be closely monitoring crime throughout the city and routinely assessing resource placement to ensure our ability to respond to and address crime elsewhere is not impacted,” Senior Police Officer TaSheena Brown said.
The actual timeline for construction of the training center, meanwhile, may be in limbo.
Initial land disturbance permits, which allow for things like clearing, grading and infrastructure improvements on the site, were issued by DeKalb County’s planning department on Jan. 31.
Several days later, a local resident named Amy Taylor filed a formal challenge to the permits, accusing the city and county of overlooking existing restrictions on sediment discharges and exaggerating the amount of greenspace that would be preserved.
Work at the site has seemingly continued apace since the appeal was filed — but an attorney representing Taylor, DeKalb County Commissioner Ted Terry and the South River Watershed Alliance has now asked a judge to press pause until the matter is resolved.
Attorney Jon Schwartz filed the 17-page request for an emergency injunction late Monday afternoon.
The filing cites a DeKalb County code section that says an appeal of land disturbance permits issued for a development “on residentially zoned property” should automatically result in work being stopped until the matter is resolved.
Because Atlanta owns the property in question, it did not have to go through the normal rezoning process, and the training center facility is slated to be built on property otherwise zoned for residential development.
A hearing on the requested injunction was scheduled for Thursday afternoon in Fulton County Superior Court, Schwartz said. If granted, it could pause work on the training center site for nearly two months.
Under the zoning board of appeals’ normal scheduling guidelines, the matter would not be heard until a meeting on April 12.