(SAVANNAH) The Savannah Alderman who intervened in a police response to a hit and run that took more than an hour on Wednesday is talking about one of the factors contributing to that delay, a shortage of police officers. Julian Miller represents the 4th district in the Hostess City. He says he was not expecting the call for help, but he’s not surprised that this situation came to pass. “When we started this year, we were down 99 officers..uh..well that’s a sixth of the department… if you throw in the people who are on vacation, and sick leave and light duty and everything else…it was like a fourth of the department that was missing.” said Miller.
The Savannah-Chatham Metro Police Department is in the midsts of fixing the problem of vacancies in their ranks. The department reports there are only 2 vacancies today and there are 86 officers in training right now. 9 officers are expected to graduate this month and more than 30 will graduate in May. But Miller says even with those vacancies being filled, there’s other issues that need to be addressed and one of them is retention of the experienced officers. “We still haven’t solved the pay issues, the discrepancies for, mostly for sergeants and lieutenants, which are the backbone of the department.” Miller said.
Under current pay structure, the Alderman says there are sergeants making more than some lieutenants, some corporals making more than some sergeants, not to mention the shortage of majors the SCMPD is dealing with. Miller fears some of the most experienced officers will be lured away sooner than later. ” There’s a new sheriff if town, he has a lot of vacancies to fill in his own department. “He obviously is going to be putting the push on to try to fill those ranks and what better place to go looking for officers than right next door at Metro. He knows who the good officers are. “If we don’t solve these issues, we could be right back where we were before.” said Miller, adding “We can’t continue to go in this direction because we end up with situations like you reported on yesterday, where we don’t have the officers to respond.” Miller said.
The Alderman says he has reiterated his concerns about these issues to the city manager and to Mayor Eddie DeLoach. Miller says the Mayor is on-board, but others on council need to be as well if the problem is going to be addressed Miller expects all the police vacancies to be filled, with officers trained and on patrol, by November, but there is no timetable available right now about addressing the other issues that may make help with the retention of Savannah-Chatham Metro Police Department’s more experienced officers. Police Chief Jack Lumpkin was not available for comment today, but Lumpkin is planning to discuss the staffing issues in his department in the next week or so.