Incoming police chief talks about job, role models
HUNTERSVILLE – Cleveland Spruill is still a few weeks away from starting his new job as Huntersville’s police chief, but the outgoing Alexandria, Va., deputy chief is excited about the move.
Spruill spoke with The Herald Weekly about several topics, including what brings him to Huntersville, what he plans on doing once he assumes the job, and whom he regards as a role model.
Q: What made Huntersville an attractive destination to you?
A: I visited Huntersville and I have relatives in Charlotte, so they’re close by.
I did a ride-along (in Huntersville) over Thanksgiving weekend last year.
When I started doing more research, I found the department and town was very well run and full of good people.
Q: How do you think your experience with a growing city like Alexandria will help you run Huntersville, which could reach 80,000 residents by 2030?
A: There are a lot of similarities between Alexandria and Huntersville.
You have a huge city nearby that brings with it the issues like traffic and crime, which I’ll actively pay close attention to. People are interested in moving where taxes may be lower and there’s more space, so they find the suburbs of major cities to be attractive options.
Q: What kind of challenges do you see coming with your new position?
A: I like to call them ‘opportunities’ rather than ‘challenges.’ There are internal and external ones, though.
I’m an outsider coming to the police department.
One of the things I have to do is establish relationships and a rapport with those around me. (Huntersville leaders) actually came out and visited my police department. The town manager (Greg Ferguson) and some of the command structure of the police department visited Alexandria’s department.
We care about our citizens, we treat them well but we also hold people accountable.
I really need to put myself into the community, get to know the community and get their help in reducing crime. The best crime-fighting tool is the eyes and ears of the community. They know what’s going on.
Like we’ve said in Alexandria, we’d rather be called and not needed than needed and not called.
Within the first year, I’d like to meet representatives from homeowners associations, community groups and businesses to see what we can do for the community.
Q: What skills do you bring to the table for the police department and community?
A: I definitely have experience (26 years in law enforcement).
In Alexandria, we’ve been heavily invested in the community. We looked for ways to have police officers establish a rapport with residents, so they won’t think we’ll just be seen when something bad happens. I’ve also led a big community initiative (in Alexandria). I have experience working with a system heavy in the use of information technology to guide police operations.
You can’t put an officer on every corner, so you have to be efficient with what you have.
Also, I’m a people person. I like to talk to people, get to know them and find out what the issues and concerns are so that I can help build solutions. Public safety is not just a police department issue, it’s also a town and community issue.
Q: What did you learn from your ride-along with HPD last year?
A: I rode along with Officer Michael Joseph.
When I came there, I didn’t know a whole lot about Huntersville.
I was extremely impressed with his level of professionalism and his knowledge. Just the care and dedication to the community that the police department has was something that really impressed me.
I did a lot of research afterward, and I was also really impressed by their commitment to community-oriented policing.
You hear sometimes of cities and towns with a program for that, but it’s really just a title. In this case, I found they were really committed to that, and I like that.
Q: What made you want to work in public safety?
A: I was initially interested in becoming a lawyer.
When I got out of the military (U.S. Army, 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment), I just wanted to be an officer for a few years to see how things worked. I started at Alexandria, and as they say, the rest is history.
I’ve been in it since August 1987, and I can’t imagine doing anything else.
Q: Who are some of your role models?
A: Obviously, my parents.
My best friend is a gentleman named William Lyle. He’s a police officer who lost his leg in an accident while chasing a suspect in Alexandria.
If I were to name another one, it would be Charles Hill, a SWAT team member for Alexandria’s police department who was killed in 1989 in the line of duty. Charlie taught me a lot about public safety, and he taught me the ultimate price you could pay.
Have coffee with a cop - The Huntersville Police Department invites the community to meet officers who work in various neighborhoods to discuss community issues, build relationships and drink a free cup of coffee.
The event begins at 6-7:30 p.m. April 23 at Chick-fil-A, 16915 Statesville Road.
Coffee with a Cop provides an opportunity for the community to ask questions and learn more about the department’s work in the neighborhoods.
The majority of contact that officers have with the public usually happens during emergencies or emotional situations. Such situations are not always ideal for building relationships with the community.
Some residents may also feel that officers are unapproachable while on patrol.
The Huntersville Police Department hopes to break down the barriers and allow for a relaxed, one-on-one interaction.