The Chatham County Commission voted as expected today and called for the end of the department merger that created the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department.
From Eric Curl at SavannahNow/Savannah Morning News:
UPDATE: City Manager Stephanie Cutter today issued the following statement on the Chatham County Commission’s vote regarding the Savannah-Chatham police department:
“I understand the Chatham County Board of Commissioners voted today to begin the process of terminating the SCMPD intergovernmental agreement. While I respect the will of our elected representatives, I believe strongly that dissolving the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department will hurt public safety in our community.”
The disagreements about costs, about police service, and about the power granted to city officials have been simmering ever since the Chatham County and Savannah police departments merged about a decade ago, but problems have now reached a boiling point.
I know people who consider themselves “in the know” who are assuming that the merger will be saved — that today’s vote is just part of an increasingly high-stakes negotiation. But there are many county residents who seem to want the merger to end and many residents of the city who are so frustrated that they don’t even see all that much at stake.
As a resident of a high-crime area of Savannah with a great deal of street-level drug dealing, I had hoped the merger would bring us a more coherent approach to fighting crime — a fresh strategy that would address the obviousness of some of the criminal activity that happens pretty much round-the-clock just a few blocks from the police precinct next to which I live. But, no.
The potential collapse of the police merger looks especially grim given the weight of other issues — including the search for a new chief, the federal corruption charges against the former chief, and the ongoing investigation of a high-profile fatal shooting of a suspect (who was allegedly still armed) in police custody just last week.
The City of Savannah has a strong-city-manager/weak-mayor-and-council form of government. Stephanie Cutter has only held the permanent post as City Manager since spring 2013. At this point, one has to wonder how deep the support is for her among the elected leadership.