Meet Joe Spillane, GSUPD’s new chief

Soon to be GSUPD Chief Spillane says he has already set an agenda for the Spring 2017 semester.  Photo by Jade Johnson | The Signal
Soon to be GSUPD Chief Spillane says he has already set an agenda for the Spring 2017 semester.
Photo by Jade Johnson | The Signal

Atlanta Police Department’s Deputy Chief Joseph Spillane will soon claim the chief seat of Georgia State’s campus police force.

After an extensive, nationwide search for the new chief of Georgia State’s police department, Spillane was elected by a committee comprised of university professors, administrators and the school’s student body president.

On Nov. 28,  Spillane will inherit the throne from Georgia State University Police Department’s (GSUPD) interim chief Carlton Mullis, who rose to the role when former-Chief Connie Sampson was demoted following a weed deal-turned-shooting in March.

Mullis said he’ll reclaim his spot as a GSUPD deputy chief, and he’s confident that Spillane is cut out for the rigors of police work at Georgia State’s six campuses.

“I have known and worked with Chief Spillane for most of my 20 years in Atlanta and look forward to helping him prepare the police department for the challenges ahead,” he told The Signal.

Spillane said he’s gearing up to hit the ground running, addressing concerns of student safety by beefing up security and boosting the department’s social media presence.

“As soon as I get on-board, I’ll be making a Twitter and Instagram page on behalf of the university [police] because I think it’s real important that students can know first-hand that maybe ‘A student just got robbed over by Woodruff; here’s a be-on-lookout for the person that just robbed that student. Call the police if you see him,’” he said, noting that Georgia Tech has implemented a student-involved process to disburse useful info on campus happenings.

“There’s some things going on over at Georgia Tech that I like,” he said of the neighboring school’s digital outreach. “They’ve hired student monitors to watch social media forums and put out safety alerts.”

Still, it’s important to maintain consciousness of what’s pertinent to students and staff with regards to ‘emergencies,’ he said.

“I just want to make sure that we don’t overcompensate and put out an alert every time somebody stubs their toe because then people will stop paying attention to them,” he said.

Spillane also plans to up the police force population of GSUPD, largely because the university will soon claim the former home of the Atlanta Braves, Turner Field – Mullis began recruiting more officers when the Georgia State-Georgia Perimeter College consolidation took effect.

“There will be several developments over there over the next few years,” he said. “As we develop and grow, we need to make sure [the policing system] is adequate to keep everyone safe. I haven’t nailed down the numbers with Dr. [Mark] Becker, but I think we’re going to be looking at adding another 60 to 75 officers…for all campuses as we shift things around.”

This swell of police presence, he said, will take a few years to come to fruition, but he’s eyeing more strategies of Georgia Tech’s police department to develop practices for Georgia State.

Bobby Dodd Stadium, the stomping ground for Tech’s Yellowjacket athletes, uses police oversight to address the field’s interior goings-on while off-duty officers assess the sports complex’s perimeter.

Spillane used to run the off-duty security detail for the Atlanta Falcons and said his experience with stadium protection should come in handy once Georgia State claims The Ted. “If we’re going to be playing ball over there, I think it’s important to have somebody with some knowledge in that arena,” he said.

Spillane said he plans to more frequently address student activity off-campus when Panthers are bombing around places such as Edgewood Avenue and other nearby hangouts because “Georgia law allows campus police officers jurisdiction within 500 yards of their facilities, so we technically have joint jurisdiction with APD up to 500 yards.”

“You have to evaluate the whole city, and I think they were looking for someone who can work with the Atlanta Police Department very closely to make sure that we’re in constant communication about things happening in and around campus,” he said, adding, “things that happen at Underground Atlanta or Woodruff Park or Broad Street Plaza; all those places affect Georgia State students.”

The security upgrade efforts effected by Mullis late last year — increased surveillance and security after a series of armed robberies in the library — will push forward once his successor, Spillane, takes the reins.  

“I haven’t been involved yet, but I’ve been a big proponent of making sure that physical security in buildings is adequate and that you know about everyone who’s coming in and out of those buildings,” Spillane said.

He said when new Georgia State buildings are developed, designers must maintain consciousness of student safety. “Part of the way to design new buildings…is to look at lighting, cameras, door security, and what technology can help you to know who’s on campus at any given time.”

In addition to the few hundred new surveillance cameras scattered about the Atlanta campus and the biometric scanners coming, Spillane said, Georgia State could install “license plate reading technology so you know who’s traversing campus. If you’ve got someone who’s wanted for armed robbery on campus, I want to know about it.”