New officer recruits could increase campus security

Georgia State police officers work closely with APD since they’re able to access more Atlanta areas like student housing. Signal Archives

Georgia State and the Atlanta Police are recruiting new officers to bolster Atlanta’s security.

The Atlanta Police Department’s (APD) authorized strength has been depleted by 150 officers, according to recent Atlanta Police retiree and new Georgia State University Police Department (GSUPD) Chief Joseph Spillane.

“Retirements, resignations and terminations have seen the number of sworn officers drop from a high of 2,034 to 1,884,” Spillane said.

The hires are just the beginning Spillane said in SGA’s campus safety forum Feb. 23, as there will be more officers soon located by Turner Field as well as the university becomes more active in that part of town.

“Once [student] housing moves over there, we will have people there full time,” Spillane said, adding that he hopes to soon have a Wellness Center by Turner Field to keep police officers in shape.

Spillane and Major Scott Kreher of the Atlanta Police Zone Five have worked on numerous details together to keep the campus, as well as the rest of the city safe. Georgia State’s police covers 500 yards from any building leased or owned by the university. This allows university police to share concurrent jurisdiction with APD, thus the newly formed partnership.

The first major collaboration of the departments came after the One12 incident, where a student was shot during a robbery gone wrong. The facility falls under the jurisdiction of Zone Five, but Chief Spillane has met with Atlanta Police to keep the area around the apartment secure.

Spillane further said that residents have complained about security guard stations not being filled, and both departments found weaknesses in the facility’s safety system like doors being open when they were supposed to be closed, and security guards missing from their stations which allowed students to get in without being checked in.

“Most of the issues are management controlled. Atlanta Police Department has been working with them and has a courtesy officer living there who is increasing his patrol activity,” Spillane said.

Although Chief Spillane expressed ample confidence in his own campus’ security, he intends to increase the presence of police on campus alongside the Atlanta Police. The desire to increase the visibility of campus police is shared by Georgia State student Brittney Keith.

“I feel unsafe walking back to my dormitory at 9:45 at night, also when I leave the library at 2 a.m. there’s no one outside; I feel there should be police [on campus] during that time,” Keith said.

Getting new officers to bolster security, however, comes with its own challenges. Director of Public Affairs for the Atlanta Police Elizabeth Espy pointed out that hiring new police is a challenge faced by the whole country.

“The Dallas [Texas] Police Department that had to cancel an academy class, because of low enrollment,” Epsy said.

Spillane attributed the decline in police hiring to the current social environment, making the profession of law enforcement unattractive to potential hires.

“Over the past several years there have been many high profile incidents that have cast the police profession in a negative light,” Spillane said, “while Georgia State Police and Atlanta Police may not have had these types of incidents, those that happened in Chicago and Ferguson make national coverage and affect the entire profession and our recruiting efforts.”

Special Events and Clery Coordinator of Georgia State Police Department Pamisa Scott echoed this concern. She hopes to close the rift between the community and law enforcement by hiring police that are able to better engage the community.

“We want to change the public’s mindset of the police. We want them to know that we are here to help,” Scott said.