How much police coverage does Savannah and Chatham County need, and how much will it cost?
A consultant answered the first part of that question with a study released Tuesday. The second will now be up to local legislators.
The Berkshire Advisors report, titled “Report of a Police Department Management Study and Development of an Evidence Based Funding Formula,” was designed to take an unbiased look at the Savannah-Chatham Metro Police Department and what, if anything, it needs to better operate and protect citizens.
“One of the things about being an expert is that you have to be away before some people will believe you, you have to hear it from someone outside of the community,” explained SCMPD Chief Jack Lumpkin.
In part, the study said more technology and more officers are needed to keep our area safe.
“A lot of the issues and challenges that we’ve been talking about for 24 months have been identified in the report,” said Chief Lumpkin. “That we need more staff and the people in the SCMPD have done an excellent job considering the task they face and the numbers we have.”
This was just the overview of the Savannah-Chatham Metro Police Department. The beginning of the process and the beginning of a lot of questions and hard decisions for the county and city.
That report details what the police department needs or should have to better protect Savannah.
More staff. As many as 146 officers to solve crimes and drop response time to calls to 7 minutes.
“A lot can happen in 10 minutes (and) 15 minutes to a priority one call. You can put density in that and god knows what will happen,” said Alderman Tony Thomas.
More technology, and something that can’t be bought. A “culture of accountability” and stability. Which has been lost over the years by an ever changing list of leaders at the top of the department.
“Certain goals will not be obtained until we make certain expenditures,” said SCMPD Chief Jack Lumpkin. “We are better today that we were. But to become the elite to become the safest mid-city that I want this city to become its going to take improvements in staffing, competitiveness, technology and facilities.”
The presentation also included an hard look at Savannah’s 911 Call Center. Berkshire identified communications was the biggest need as a whole, both in responders and infrastructure. According to SCMPD currently there are 100 on staff for the center. In 2016, the center answered 87 percent in less than three rings, which falls under the national average of 90 percent.
“We have to be able to answer those telephones at a greater rate than we are answering them today. We must meet standard,” SCMPD Chief Jack Lumpkin said.
Both Berkshire Consulting and SCMPD agree this statistic needs to change.
“We found that the 911 call center doens’t have enough staff to all calls quickly between 10 seconds for 90 percent of the calls. So we’ve recommended a pretty sizable increase of staff to 19 communications officers and a couple of communications supervisors,” Berkshire’s Michael Walker said.
This was just an overview. A first look at the consultant’s findings.
Read the FULL REPORT HERE:
But not the first time some local leaders had questions about how the system is working.
“We have active folks who can get their butts from a patrol to the unincorporated area,” said Dean Kicklighter, Chatham County Commissioner. “But these folks are spending the majority of their time patrolling the higher crime rate area in Savannah.”
“If you have a management system in place where they say we are going to hold precinct captains accountable for achieving a given response time,” explained Mike Walker of Berkshire Advisors. “If you have that accountability, if you hold them accountable, the idea of where they are patrolling will take care of itself.”
“Its not easy” explained Lee Smith, Chatham County Manager.
“We want you to go at your 50,000 foot view on what your vision is for higher response or if you want to see a car go through a neighborhood every day then we will generalize costs.”
Now the County Commissioners and Council members will look at all the findings, get a response from the SCMPD Chief and City/County Managers. The lawmakers will then ask questions and figure out what Police services they believe are needed.
Then the staff will apply a formula to find out how much that would cost.
Consultants did say the cost of a combined police department would be less than splitting into Savannah and Chatham County Police.
But the question remains, how much is the county willing to pay, and how much more is the city wanting to ante up for more officers?
Both sides hope to iron all that out somehow in the next 45 days.