GSUPD’s new strategies dismiss reevaluating partnership with GILEE

The Georgia State Police Department implements new strategies and policies this fall. Photo by Matt Siciliano-Salazar | The Signal

With Georgia State being in the heart of Atlanta, the campus has been in the vicinity of countless protests throughout the summer. Georgia State’s involvement with Atlanta protests even extends to its police department.

During the summer, the Georgia State University Police Department played a significant role in managing the Black Lives Matter protests, working as traffic control and detaining rioters.  

From the Aderhold building’s vandalization to the everyday crimes on campus, the GSUPD prepared to take extra precautions for the fall semester. 

According to Georgia State’s 2019 annual report, the GSUPD is the state’s largest campus police department. Yet, GSUPD Chief of Police Joseph Spillane still planned to amplify the police presence this semester.

“The number of sworn officers has declined from an authorized 171 to around 145,” he said. “[But] we have increased the number of unarmed security guards.”

According to The Signal, the police department was preparing to have “new strategies” and began reviewing its procedures in May.

The GSUPD’s website states that they have prevailed on their promise to the Georgia State community.

To bolster campus security, Georgia State has doubled the number of police officers on each shift patrolling campus [and] installed additional security cameras on campus,” the website states. 

The GSUPD has installed 50 surveillance cameras at the Georgia State Stadium and has now licensed a total of 4,200 cameras across all six campuses.

”Many of our new strategies involve more de-escalation and mental health training (CIT Certification) for our officers,” Chief Spillane said. ” We also added a “duty to Intervene” [policy]. If an officer sees another officer using unnecessary or excessive force, he or she must intervene to stop the excessive or unnecessary force or face discipline up to and including termination. ”

New policies ban choke holds and neck restraints, ensuring that a person arrested be moved to a place of recovery as soon as possible if placed in “the prone position.”

Though updating strategies this semester, the GSUPD remains to not be affiliated with the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange, or GILEE.

GILEE partners with police departments across the nation and works to train law enforcement.

Their mission is to improve law enforcement training and development while also being involved in international affairs and public safety “through the protection of civil rights.” But human rights activists in Atlanta and at Georgia State oppose the GILEE program, believing that its methods exacerbate racial tensions in the community.

When Black faculty sent a letter to Georgia State University President Mark Becker over the summer, they addressed concerns about the university’s relationship with GILEE.

Becker and the faculty had a conversation, and Akinyele Umoja, a professor of African American studies, asked about the university’s standing with GILEE.

“Events this spring and summer have brought to a head greater public awareness of systemic racism and its relationship to policing in Black communities,” Umoja said.

Faculty emphasized the inconsistency of Georgia State’s involvement with GILEE while having a large number of Black students on campus.

“If… [Georgia State] is an institution committed to understanding complex challenges of cities and developing effective solutions,” Umoja said, “we urge you to convene a community conversation to provide more transparency regarding the university’s standing on policing and structural racism, and the role of GILEE.” 

Becker is aware of the community’s opposition and allegations but says no one has brought forward any evidence of discrimination.

“This conversation has been had before, not necessarily in terms of violence against Black people, and every time I’ve asked for evidence, none has been forthcoming,” he said.

As of now, Georgia State remains partnered with GILEE and the GSUPD does not.

“GSUPD does not participate in any training with GILEE and I have no plans to send any member of GSUPD to any GILEE sponsored training,” Chief Spillane said.

Editor’s note: a previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the GSUPD is partnered with GILEE. However, the GSUPD is not in partnership with GILEE and the article has been updated to reflect this. Updated at 1:15 p.m. on 9/29/2020.