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Police veteran named new Athens chief

Athens Banner-Herald - 1/14/2019

Jan. 11--Athens-Clarke County officials on Friday named a new police chief.

Cleveland Spruill, most recently chief of the Huntersville (North Carolina) Police Department, was selected to replace Scott Freeman, who was forced to resign in September. The new chief starts Feb. 4.

Spruill, a 31-year law enforcement veteran, was chosen following a national search that used criteria heavily solicited from Athens residents, said County Manager Blaine Williams.

"After careful consideration and based on extensive feedback from the citizens and officers about what they want to see in our new police chief, I believe that Chief Spruill will be an exceptional fit for Athens-Clarke County," Williams said in a news release. "He stood out among an extremely well-qualified group of candidates as the right person to lead our police department, uphold our community-oriented policing philosophy, and serve as an ambassador to the community."

Williams acknowledged that Athens is a "unique community" and hiring an outsider was "a gamble," but he said he chose Spruill because his diverse law enforcement experience "brings added value."

Williams said his short list of candidates included Athens officers, but when he traveled to Huntersville over the holidays to speak with the city's residents and police officers, their glowing appraisals of Spruill sealed the deal.

"I was extremely encouraged from what I heard," Williams said.

A contributing factor in hiring Spruill was that "community policing is part of who he is," Williams said.

"I look forward to leading the talented and capable men and women of the department and pledge my best effort to train them and enrich their careers," Spruill said in prepared remarks. "Together we will strive to build on organizational successes and enhance trust and relationships with the community to make Athens-Clarke County among the safest places in Georgia to live, learn, work and visit."

Prior to his time in Huntersville, Spruill served the Alexandria Police Department in Virginia for nearly 27 years. His career there included more than 17 years of command-level experience with assignments in each of the major bureaus.

"Throughout his 31-year police career, Chief Spruill has established a reputation as a reformer and change agent," Williams said. "He has shown that he can support his officers effectively in reducing crime and enhancing the quality of life, while at the same time building trust and strengthening community relationships with law enforcement."

In dismissing Freeman, county officials and documents cited mismanagement that resulted in poor morale, a high officer turnover rate and other problems within the police department.

"I believe he can connect well with the community, including underserved populations, will support the officers, will communicate in a transparent fashion, is fair and builds trust, will emphasize training and 21st Century Policing principles, and has demonstrated an experienced career leading community policing," Williams said of Spruill.

Spruill was born in Queens, New York, in 1964 and relocated with his family to Richmond, Virginia, in 1978. After graduating from high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Army, where he was assigned to the 3rd U.S. Infantry Battalion at Ft. Myer, Virginia. He was honorably discharged in 1986 and joined the Alexandria Police Department the following year.

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(c)2019 Athens Banner-Herald (Athens, Ga.)

Visit the Athens Banner-Herald (Athens, Ga.) at www.onlineathens.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 
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