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Athens Police Chief Cleveland Spruill Is Retiring

ACCPD Chief Cleveland Spruill.

Athens-Clarke County Police Chief Cleveland Spruill will retire Mar. 10, ACC announced Tuesday.

Spruill said in a news release that he’s retiring to be closer to family in Maryland. Raised in Richmond, VA, he spent most of his career in Alexandria and sought a job last year as police chief in Frederick, MD.

“This decision is not made lightly,” Spruill said. “It has been a privilege to work with the Athens-Clarke County community and the fine men and women of the Athens-Clarke County Police Department. However, I have decided to end my law enforcement career and move home to Maryland to spend time enjoying retirement with family and friends.”

Hired in 2019 to rebuild morale on the force after Manager Blaine Williams asked for the resignation of former chief Scott Freeman, Spruill came to Athens from a Charlotte suburb as an advocate for community-oriented policing. However, that year ACCPD officers shot six people, killing five, more than police had killed in the previous 28 years since city-county unification combined. In 2020, Spruill was criticized for using tear gas to disperse a group of peaceful George Floyd protesters.

More recently, Spruill feuded with ACC Commissioner Mariah Parker over ACCPD’s drug task force and with Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement cofounder Mokah Jasmine Johnson over the makeup of a civilian oversight board.

“Despite the challenges of the last three years, the Athens-Clarke County Police Department is left better equipped, better trained and better prepared than when I arrived in 2019,” Spruill said. “I am thankful to Athens-Clarke County and Manager Blaine Williams for allowing me the opportunity to serve as this community’s police chief.”

Williams credited Spruill with reducing crime rates, implementing a new pay plan, restoring the canine unit and improving transparency and community relations during his three-year tenure.

“I am extremely grateful to Chief Spruill for his leadership in guiding our police department through extraordinarily challenging times,” Williams said. “He has supported and developed both his sworn and non-sworn public servants, as well as to make real and lasting connections with residents and community stakeholders. I believe he has accomplished the Athenian threshold in leaving the police department in a better state than when he found it. The work behind that is tremendous.”

Williams said he will name an interim chief soon and conduct a nationwide search for a permanent replacement.