Approximately 14 years ago, Chatham County and the City of Savannah took the bold step to consolidate their respective police departments and formed the Savannah/Chatham Metropolitan Police Department. This merger eliminated the duplication of services and jurisdictional issues that had plagued the two departments. It can be argued that it was not a full merger because officers remain in separate pension/retirement plans, cars are titled separately, and other equipment is purchased separately by the respective agencies. Along with that, the City and County regularly disagree about cost allocations, governance and service issues.
Because of these issues and others, Savannah is preparing to de-merge the Savannah Metropolitan Police Department. On July 25, the Savannah Area Chamber, the Savannah Economic Development Authority, The Downtown Business Association and the Tourism Leadership Council joined together to compose a letter to both Mayor Eddie DeLoach and County Commission Chair Al Scott, asking to them meet and discuss the issues.
That meeting took place August 2 with the Mayor, County Chairman, and the County and City Managers along with representatives of the four business organizations. There, conceptual agreements were reached on the desire of the community to keep the department merged, hiring more officers, settling the financial dispute and executing a plan that would give the County control over police service in their jurisdiction. The City and County disagreed on the quality and recommendations of the Berkshire Report (a study commissioned by both the City and County governments to assess SCMPD’s needs and its efficiency), the potential of achieving a 7-minute response time in the unincorporated areas and on some of the policing techniques, but agreed to meet further.
Friday August 11, Chairman Scott agreed to have discussions through the end of August, and the Chairman and Mayor appear to have met about that same time.
During the first two weeks of August, the Chamber, TLC and DBA polled their collective memberships with reassuring results. The County Chairman, the Mayor, the City and County Manager as well as all the groups’ Boards of Directors have been briefed on the poll results. Poll responses included:
- 95% confidence level in the results with +/- 5%.
- Most respondents live in the unincorporated county and work within the city
- Most think crime is getting worse with few (7%) thinking it’s getting better
- 76% vs 24% feel the police should remain merged
- 70% vs 30% feel de-merger negatively affects public safety
- Overwhelmingly, respondents believe the merged police benefit residents in both the city and county
- 64% vs 37% believe the unincorporated county and City of Savannah should be merged into a new government
- Respondents feel neither City nor County have provided good leadership regarding the resolution of the police merger issues
- Though percentages vary slightly, when reviewing the poll data and segmenting the responses for just those living in the city and just those living in the county, the results were the same as above with the majority of respondents wanting to preserve the merger, as well as merge the two governments into a single new government, and feeling overall less rather than more safe
As the results of this poll strongly demonstrate, the preference of both city and county residents is to retain a merged police force. Therefore, the Chamber encourages residents to reach out to the Mayor and city Aldermen as well as the Chairman of the Chatham County Board of Commissioners and the Chatham County Commissioners to let them know how you and your business will be affected by their decision to de-merge the Savannah Chatham Metropolitan Police Department.
Mayor Eddie DeLoach: EDeloach@SavannahGA.gov
At-Large Alderman Carolyn Bell: CBell@SavannahGA.gov
At-Large Alderman Brian Foster: BFoster@SavannahGA.gov
District 1 Alderman Van R. Johnson, II: AldermanJohnson1@aol.com
District 2 Alderman Bill Durrence: BDurrence01@SavannahGA.gov
District 3 Alderman John Hall: JHall@SavannahGA.gov
District 4 Alderman Julian Miller: JMiller03@SavannahGA.gov
District 5 Alderman Dr. Estella Edwards Shabazz: EShabazz@SavannahGA.gov
District 6 Alderman Tony Thomas: TThomas@SavannahGA.gov
County Commission Chairman Albert J. Scott: Chairman@ChathamCounty.org
District 1 Commissioner Helen J. Stone: District1@ChathamCounty.org
District 2 Commissioner James J. Holmes: District2@ChathamCounty.org
District 3 Commissioner Bobby Lockett: District3@ChathamCounty.org
District 4 Commissioner Patrick K. Farrell: District4@ChathamCounty.org
District 5 Commissioner Tabitha A. Odell: District 5@ChathamCounty.org
District 6 Commissioner James “Jay” Jones: District6@ChathamCounty.org
District 7 Commissioner Dean Kicklighter: District7@ChathamCounty.org
District 8 Commissioner Chester A. Ellis: District8@ChathamCounty.org