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Athens-Clarke County Names New Police Chief

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Athens-Clarke County

Cleveland Spruill.

Athens-Clarke County Manager Blaine Williams has appointed a North Carolina police chief to take over the ACC police department effective Feb. 4.

Cleveland Lee Spruill Sr. has been the police chief in Huntersville, NC, since May 2014. The Huntersville police department has 102 sworn officers, 111 total employees and a $12.8 million annual budget.

Although Huntersville, population 60,000, is half the size of Athens, Spruill has experience running a larger department. Prior to becoming the police chief in Huntersville, Spruill was the executive chief deputy in Alexandria, VA, which had 320 sworn officers, 105 civilian employees, a $57 million budget and served a population of over 150,000. ACCPD has a $26 million budget and 319 authorized positions.

Williams said in a news release that Spruill stood out among many qualified applicants as the best person to uphold ACC’s philosophy of community-oriented policing and serve as an ambassador to the community.

“Throughout his 31-year police career, Chief Spruill has established a reputation as a reformer and change agent,” Williams. “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.

“Chief Spruill embodies the characteristics that both the community and the government are seeking. 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.”

Spruill was born in Queens, NY, in 1964, and his family moved to Richmond, VA, in 1978. He served in the Army after graduating from high school until 1986, then joined the Alexandria police department, where he worked for 27 years, including 17 at the command level.

He graduated from the FBI National Academy in 2004 and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business management from Johns Hopkins University.

“It is an honor and a privilege to be selected as the next chief of the Athens-Clarke County Police Department,” Spruill said in the news release. “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. 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.”

Williams asked for former Chief Scott Freeman’s resignation in October after determining that Freeman had lost the support of rank-and-file officers.

ACC received over 150 comments from citizens during the police chief search, and a panel of officers also provided input.

Capt. Mike Hunsinger has been serving as interim chief since Freeman’s resignation.

“Interim Chief Mike Hunsinger has done a commendable job of managing the Police Department during this time of transition,” said Williams. “The Unified Government and this community truly owe him a debt of gratitude.”