A state organization has decided to allow a former Dunwoody police officer, who claims he was fired in retaliation for criticizing the department, to keep his law enforcement certification.

With my certification back in good standing and my record cleared, I look forward to the future,” said former Dunwoody officer Austin Handle in a statement. “I hope others realize that they can stand up and fight for what they believe is right and just.”

The Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Council initially investigated Handle after he was fired from the Dunwoody Police Department in May of 2020 for allegedly using his police car’s emergency equipment, speeding through his neighborhood, and then lying about the incident. 

The agency initially revoked Handle’s certification, and he appealed the decision. On May 2, POST’s chairman and executive director issued an order dismissing the case, letting Handle keep his certification. 

“The commanders at Dunwoody have tried their very best to ruin me, as they have done in the past to others, but their best efforts were not enough,” Handle said. 

Handle claims he was fired for speaking out against former Dunwoody Lt. Fidel Espinoza. In 2020, multiple department employees alleged that former Lt. Fidel Espinoza sexually harassed them and in some cases asked for sexual favors for work benefits. In December of last year, a second former Dunwoody officer filed suit against Espinoza, alleging sexual harassment. The department has admitted that Espinoza sent sexual messages, but claims he did not harass anyone. 

Handle did not claim that Espinoza harassed him personally, but that he was aware of the harassment. He posted multiple videos about the events to his TikTok page, which has gained a significant following. 

The Dunwoody Police Department declined to comment on Handle’s certification. Last year, when a state board ruled that Handle could receive unemployment benefits, the department defended its decision to fire Handle. 

Sammie Purcell

Sammie Purcell is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers.