The University of Georgia (UGA) School of Law’s First Amendment Clinic has filed an Open Records Request lawsuit to demand public records from the private Atlanta Police Foundation (APF). The lawsuit, filed at the behest of the Atlanta Community Press Collective and Electronic Frontier Alliance-member Lucy Parsons Labs, is seeking records relating to the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, which activists refer to as Cop City. While the facility will be used for public law enforcement and emergency services agencies, including training on surveillance technologies, the lease is held by the APF.  

The argument is that the Atlanta Police Foundation, as the nonprofit holding the lease for facilities intended for use by government agencies, should be subject to the same state Open Records Act as to its functions that are on behalf of law enforcement agencies. Beyond the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, the APF also manages the Atlanta Police Department’s Video Surveillance Center, which integrates footage from over 16,000 public and privately-held surveillance cameras across the city. 

According to UGA School of Law’s First Amendment Clinic, “The Georgia Supreme Court has held that records in the custody of a private entity that relate to services or functions the entity performs for or on behalf of the government are public records under the Georgia Open Records Act.” 

Police foundations frequently operate in this space. They are private, non-profit organizations with boards made up of corporations and law firms that receive monetary or equipment donations that they then gift to their local law enforcement agencies. These gifts often bypass council hearings or other forms of public oversight. 

Lucy Parsons Labs’ Ed Vogel said, “At the core of the struggle over the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center is democratic practice. Decisions regarding this facility should not be made behind closed doors. This lawsuit is just one piece of that. The people have a right to know.” 

You can read the lawsuit here.