About 50 advocates protested the destruction of the South River forest for the construction of a police training facility called “Cop City” funded by the Atlanta Police Foundation (APF). They gathered at 191 Peachtree Street the headquarters for APF before marching to Bank of America who is one of the corporate funders of APF.
Other funders of APF are wealthy individuals and corporations like Amazon, Chick-fil-A, Delta Airlines, Coca-Cola, Home Depot, Waffle House, Wells Fargo, UPS, and Uber.
Police foundations are private organizations that funnel corporate money into policing and purchase SWAT equipment, guns, tasers, drones, police dogs, horses, surveillance cameras, license plate readers, and military weapons and equipment for police departments. The militarized equipment is used to harm black people and to repress protests.
“Cop City is not just a controversial training center. It is a war base where police will learn military-like maneuvers to kill black people and control our bodies and movement. The facility includes shooting ranges, plans for bomb testing, and will practice tear gas deployment. They are practicing how to make sure poor and working-class people stay in line. So when the police kill us in the streets again, as they did to Rayshard Brooks in 2020, they can control our protests and community response to how they continually murder our people,” says Community Movement Builders Organizer Jamal Taylor in a press release.
APF pledged $60 million for a police training facility to be built on protected forest land and Atlantans would be forced to pay an additional $30 million despite community opposition.
To put this in perspective, New York City has 36 thousand police officers and a combined training center of 32 acres. Atlanta has two thousand police officers and they originally wanted 150 acres of the forest but because it was so unpopular, it was reduced to 85 acres. Resistance continues to the Atlanta City Council (ACC) vote to lease 85 acres of the urban forest to APF to build the largest police training center in the U.S.
“Seventeen hours of public comment to the Atlanta City Council from a diverse group of people resulted in 70 percent of those citizens being opposed to cutting down the forest to build a cop city,” Priscilla Smith told Streets of Atlanta.
“We are in a climate crisis and we need to save every single tree, and preserve every inch of green space. We need every oxygen generator, every carbon sequester, and those mature trees in that forest are doing that job. When they are cut down they will be replaced with seedlings and it will be a long time before they have the carbon sequestration and the oxygen production value of the old trees,” Smith said
Marcus founder of the Official Street Karaoke told the Streets of Atlanta, “I was at the protest for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Rashard Brooks. I feel the police are doing a terrible job. They need to do a better job of training, and get the racist out of the police, and give police officers more mental evaluations. Some of these police officers have not had a mental evaluation so when they see someone they don’t like they beat them up and use their training against us.”
After leaving APF headquarters, the group marched to Bank of America to demand they divest from APF. Bank of Americans has donated $700,000 to police foundations in NYC, Atlanta, and Los Angeles.
At Bank of America, one young man was arrested for writing in chalk on the sidewalk “Stop Cop City.” The message was easily removed with water in seconds because it was chalk not spray paint, so there was no damage. There was no reason to arrest this man except maybe to intimidate the others. He was kept in jail overnight and released the next day.
WHAT ARE POLICE FOUNDATIONS AND WHO ARE THEIR DONORS?
The Color of Change and Little Sis have compiled a 63-page extensive report on the links between police foundations and corporations – Police Foundations: A Corporate Sponsored Threat to Democracy and Black Lives,
The following are excerpts from that report:
After years of police killing unarmed black and brown people, the murders of George Floyd, Bronna Taylor, and Rayshard Brooks were a breaking point that sparked the largest mass mobilization for police accountability and justice for Black people murdered by police in U.S. history.
Corporations and top executives broke their silence and joined in on social media with statements against racism, police violence, and support for Black Lives Matter (BLM). But behind the scenes, they continued to donate to police foundations and sit on foundation boards, funding the continued expansion of militarized policing that terrorizes communities and endangers Black lives.
After Rayshard Brooks was killed, police officers walked out of the job because charges were filed against their colleagues for the murder of Rashard Books. A day after the walkout APF gave each Atlanta police officer a $500 bonus.
As private entities, the real purpose of police foundations is to protect power, property, and privilege, not the communities they claim to “protect and serve.” They host exclusive galas for the wealthy and well-connected to rub elbows with police brass in private – a party ordinary citizens are not invited to.
Black communities across the nation demand critical investments in their communities like healthcare, housing, public education, child care, after-school programs, and community-led violence prevention programs to keep people safe – but that is not happening.
Police budgets have grown while city budgets for vital social services have been squeezed, closing hospitals and schools with basic needs for children, healthcare, and elders are under threat. Yet some cities allocate nearly half of their budget on police.
Instead of helping the community, the Atlanta Police Foundation has funded a network of 11,000 surveillance cameras to monitor over-policed Black Atlantans, making Atlanta the most surveilled city in the U.S. They fund controversial programs like “predictive policing” software that embeds bias in technology and makes racist policing even worse to global police exchanges with authoritarian regimes that violate people’s human rights.
Most police foundations do not have to disclose their donors, so money flows between corporations and police foundations are hidden from accountability, oversight, and disclosure.
Police foundations drive publicity and messages that contribute to misconceptions about crime and the normalization of constant surveillance and ever-growing policing.
Buckhead, a wealthy, majority-white, conservative Atlanta neighborhood has the city’s lowest crime numbers, yet they cry the loudest to Atlanta City Council about crime. In 2021, the APF launched the Buckhead Security Plan, a $2.4 million project to expand surveillance, criminalization, and privatized policing in Buckhead.
The Color of Change recommends that corporations divest from police foundations and from law enforcement non-profits. Employees who sit on a police foundation’s board should step down from those boards.
They also recommend that policymakers hold hearings to investigate police department relationships, coordination, and communications with police foundations, their boards, and donors as well as donated equipment or services.
Mandate disclosure to ensure that all police foundations that raise private funding for policing are subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and other state sunshine laws, as well as conflict of interest policies.
The identities of private donors whose money goes toward purchasing police equipment and funding police programs should be public information.
Require public approval of private funding so it is not spent on controversial technology.
This article only scratches the surface of what police foundations do, who funds them, and why. I suggest you read the link above for additional information on police foundations and their corporate sponsors.
Written and photos by Gloria Tatum