GSU police chief says he received ‘tremendous ... support’ after arrest

Joseph Spillane was stopped by Fayetteville police June 18. (Credit: Fayette County Sheriff's Office)

Georgia State University police Chief Joseph Spillane returned to work Monday following a 20-day suspension after he was arrested and accused of DUI, school officials confirmed to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“Georgia State conducted an investigation following the incident, and in a July 21 letter informed Spillane he can return to the university,” spokesman Don Hale told The AJC in an emailed statement.

Spillane declined to comment on the specifics of his case when contacted by the AJC, but he said he’s focused on maintaining campus safety.

“It feels great to be back,” he said. “I want to make sure we’re on track with our safety initiatives.”

The university placed Spillane on unpaid administrative leave after he was pulled over June 18 along Ga. 85 in Fayetteville on charges of driving under the influence of alcohol, open container and failure to maintain lane, The AJC previously reported.

Spillane told Fayetteville officers he’d just come from a tavern and had two beers but insisted he wasn’t intoxicated, according to body camera footage of the arrest obtained by Channel 2 Action News. A woman identified as Spillane’s wife was heard in the background begging the police chief not to take a field sobriety exam, which ended with Spillane’s arrest.

His next court date is Sept. 13, according to court records.

Spillane, a former deputy chief of the Atlanta Police Department, joined the university last November after the former police chief was removed following a double shooting and a handful of robberies on campus.

Officials said Spillane’s arrest “has reflected negatively on the University to the highest degree” for someone in his position.

“My expectation is that you will uphold the responsibility of your position and that any future incident or action reflecting negatively on your position or the University could result in your dismissal,” Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration Jerry Rackliffe wrote in the July 21 letter.

Spillane said it’s been a balancing act to return to the office and deal with the arrest, but that he’s been meeting with staff one-on-one regarding the arrest and has had a “tremendous amount of support.”

He’s hoping the arrest makes for a learning lesson for others: “I want people to know if you do have two beers, you can go to jail, and if you’re failing to maintain your lane, be arrested.”

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