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University of Georgia First Amendment Clinic suing Atlanta Police Foundation over ‘Cop City’ records

Crime and public safety DeKalb County Metro ATL Trending

University of Georgia First Amendment Clinic suing Atlanta Police Foundation over ‘Cop City’ records

Faith leaders and members of the Atlanta area clergy hold a press conference at Atlanta City Hall on Monday, March 6, 2023, calling on Mayor Andre Dickens and the City Council to stop Cop City and cancel the lease to the Atlanta Police Foundation. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Atlanta, GA — A legal clinic affiliated with the University of Georgia is suing the Atlanta Police Foundation over allegations that it is withholding certain records related to the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, called “Cop City” by activists opposed to the project.

APF is backing the controversial project, which aims to improve public safety by providing better training. But critics say the training center is unnecessary and promotes the militarization of local police departments.

Decaturish sent a message to APF seeking comment.

“The Georgia Journalism and Access Project at the University of Georgia School of Law’s First Amendment Clinic has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Atlanta Community Press Collective and Lucy Parsons Labs seeking public records from the Atlanta Police Foundation,” a press release from the First Amendment Clinic says. “The suit alleges that the Atlanta Police Foundation (APF) failed to respond to requests for records related to the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center that APF has contracted to construct for the City of Atlanta.”

The First Amendment Clinic is representing the nonprofit Atlanta Press Collective and Lucy Parsons in the suit. The First Amendment Clinic has also provided free legal advice to Decaturish.

“Atlanta Community Press Collective (ACPC) is an unincorporated non-profit media collective based in Atlanta, Georgia whose goal is to make the day-to-day workings of local government accessible to the public,” the press release says. “Lucy Parsons Labs (LPL) is a Chicago-based collaboration between data scientists, transparency activists, artists, and technologists that seeks to build consciousness about digital rights and the nature of policing in major American cities across the country.”

Here’s more information from the First Amendment Clinic.

The Georgia Open Records Act, or ORA, promotes government transparency by requiring local and state agencies to make their records accessible to the public upon request and to respond to such requests within three business days. The ORA also applies to a private entity, like APF, when the requested records relate to services or functions the private entity performs for or on behalf of a public agency.

In 2023, ACPC and LPL submitted requests to APF for records pertaining to the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center it is constructing for the City of Atlanta and that is funded in significant part by taxpayer dollars. Despite multiple follow-up inquiries by ACPC and LPL, APF has not, to date, responded nor produced any records. The Clinic’s lawsuit alleges that by virtue of APF’s performing a service or function for or on behalf of the City of Atlanta, the records in APF’s possession relating to the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center are subject to ORA disclosure.

“This litigation is the culmination of years of work to bring transparency to the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, a project funded with public dollars that will provide a public service,” ACPC said in a statement. “The Atlanta Police Foundation’s insistence on hiding behind its status as a nonprofit to avoid complying with the Open Records Act is appalling, but the law is quite clear on the matter. We look forward to continuing to fulfill ACPC’s mission of transparency with this lawsuit.”

The lawsuit is being litigated as part of the Clinic’s Georgia Journalism & Access Project, funded by the Legal Clinic Fund for Local News.

To see a copy of the lawsuit, click here.

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