WSAV Investigates: SCMPD Losing Important Officers

“The Savannah-Chatham Metro Police Department exists to protect, to serve and to build trust.”

Those are words from the beginning of the SCMPD’s latest recruitment video.

The design, to bring in more qualified men and women to fill the 119 positions still open.

But as we dug deeper into the numbers, WSAV Crime Expert Gerry Long and I learned about a number that could be a bigger problem in the middle of the department.

We’ve heard a lot about how many officers the Savannah Police Department is short.

As of last week, there are 119 vacancies in the department.

But while the focus has been on bringing in new officers, we wanted to look at the bigger picture, the first line supervisors.

The most glaring problem, right in the middle of the department.

The men and woman with 7-15 years experience.

Four openings at Lieutenant out of 16 jobs.

16 Sergeants out of 88 jobs.  That includes 14 Sergeants in the patrol division alone.

“These are people that have experience. These are the people that again, guide the organization at the first level,” explains WSAV Crime Expert and Former SCMPD Major Gerry Long. “Its mindset, that you are responsible for making those tough calls. You are responsible for everyone doing things safely, you are the individual responsible for coaching the employees so that they will learn to do their job in the best way possible.”

Breaking down the number further – those Lieutenant and Sgt openings have doubled since News 3 first obtained the list last year.

“Because of the vacancies and making that choice not to promote qualified individuals, that penalizes those people who are ready to take on that next challenge that next opportunity and be those new leaders.”

While the SCMPD can tout the more than $5 million in salary savings thanks to all those open spots, we found out the numbers don’t always add up.

The Department has spent more than $2.6 million on overtime this year so far.

$1.6 million of that for patrol officers working overtime to cover the lack of manpower on the streets.

So can Savannah-Chatham Police pick up new Sergeants and Lieutenants from other departments?

The answer? No.

City policy doesn’t allow someone to make a lateral move at that level.

Anyone coming in to the SCMPD, no matter what experience they have, would have to start at the bottom, like any other recruit off the street.

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