Savannah Community Groups Urge City, County To Keep Joint Police Department

Nov 20, 2017

As Chatham County and the City of Savannah get ready to separate their joint police department, some community groups are pushing to keep the force together.


Several groups spoke out against the separation Monday, including the Young Democrats and Republicans, and the National Action Network.


Antwan Lang of the Savannah Jaycees said his group has met with city and county leaders, some of whom he said are not putting public safety first.


“Some of our elected officials have adopted a philosophy of obstructionism, stemming from politics, feelings of disrespect from either party, or worse: ego,” he said.


Lang said it’s not too late to save the police merger, which ends February 1. He said he's worried that separate police departments will have a harder time addressing gangs and violence.


But both governments are moving forward with plans for separate police departments. The City Council voted in July to end the police merger, which began in 2005, after the two governments disagreed over the findings of an outside consultant's study. The city adopted the consultant's recommendations, but the County Commission did not. Commissioners particularly objected to the proposed cost-share breakdown, which some felt placed too much burden on the county.


Last month the City of Savannah approved lease agreements for new police precincts. Spokeswoman Michelle Gavin said Monday that the budget currently in the works will include those agreements as well as other expenses for the city police department, like police cars.


Chatham County has hired Jeff Hadley of the Kalamazoo, Michigan Department of Public Safety to lead its police force. He will be sworn in Dec. 4, along with assistant chiefs and about 20 officers, according to spokeswoman Catherine Glasby. By February the department will have between 140 and 150 officers to police the unincorporated county.


Many of Georgia’s major cities have merged their governments entirely with the surrounding county, including Macon, Augusta, and Columbus. But voters in some communities - including Milledgeville and Baldwin County - have rejected consolidation.