by Rev. Dave Dunn
You’ve likely heard about Atlanta City Council’s and the Atlanta Police Foundation’s wish to construct a state-of-the-art police training facility in the nation’s largest urban forest – right here in Metro Atlanta. You may have heard this training facility referred to as “Cop City.”
This issue can be in inflection point, a cause for division amongst people (including our Unitarian Universalist congregations)…yet I believe it need not be.
This facility is merely a specialized response to address specific problems in our culture – culture that is unfortunately characterized by guns and violence. Yet our culture is also unfortunately characterized by many other problems – the marginalization of people economically, politically, socially, etc.; a justice system that doesn’t work for everybody, for- profit prisons, income inequality, climate change, the erosion of our democracy, the undoing of women’s rights and the targeting of LGBTQIA+ people, etc.
Looking closely, all of these unfortunate problems are part of an interconnected system (i.e. our culture) and I believe that the system as a whole needs to be looked at when proposing solutions to the specific problems of the system.
The Roswell Police routinely reach out to the local faith community and I’ve met Chief James Conroy on numerous occasions. Although I don’t claim to know him well, he seems to be a respectful, stand-up individual who wants to serve Roswell as best he can. And although everyone has the right to feel about the police what they will, I believe that ultimately, how we “feel” about the police doesn’t come into play when deciding whether this training facility is a good idea or a bad one.
Among other things, all agree that this facility will include a planned replica of an Atlanta city block with mock apartments and hotel rooms for police to practice raids and address active shooter scenarios.
I don’t blame Atlanta City Council for their wanting the police to be trained. We need our officers to be trained. Yet, this type of training facility is a specialized response to specific problems we have going on in a much larger interconnected system (i.e. our culture). This proposed training facility is a specialized, escalatory response to the culture of guns and violence. Regardless of that specific problem, what we need over the long-term are holistic solutions to de-escalate, de-gun, de-tox the whole system; and I don’t think the spirit of the proposed training facility will focus on that.
It is for these reasons that the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly in June passed an Action of Immediate Witness called “Rise Up to Stop Cop City” which says, in part:
- THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT as Unitarian Universalists we recognize the momentum of collective action to demand social change and we call upon the UUA and its member congregations to Stop Cop City
- We will take action through self-organized … campaigns…and other solidarity actions.
- We will support those engaged in direct action to Stop Cop City with spiritual and material resources
Nurture our spirit. Strive for Justice. Transform the world.