SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – The Savannah-Chatham Metro Police Department may soon become a thing of the past.
Friday, the Savannah City Council voted to dissolve the 13-year-old merger amid controversy with Chatham County regarding a fair funding formula.
By late afternoon, County Chair Al Scott had sent Savannah Mayor Eddie Deloach a letter indicating he regretted the council’s vote and would “instruct County staff to start the process of starting up a County Police Department.”
To find out how difficult it was to actually combine the departments, News 3 spoke to Dan Flynn, who is currently the police chief in Alpharetta. But he has a special insight as he was the chief of the Savannah Police Department, beginning in 2000 and asked to help figure out a way to plan the merger.
Flynn told us he thought the merger model “was a good idea and he still does.”
“The real reason for doing it was to improve police services, to streamline police services,” he told us.
While Flynn told us the sole reason for the merger wasn’t to save money, it did just that. “When you looked at the two departments side by side before the merger – you realize that each one of them has a complete command staff of its own with people at the top making the most money in the organization,” he said.
Now Flynn says separating all of the department staff, equipment and buildings could be tangled web, “Well, think about the complexity, you separate employees out that are members of the combined department, you have to come up with a retirement plan and other things for example.”
He also said that both departments would then need to “rehire administrative personnel to make sure they would have an adequate chain of command and supervision. “But then a very big thing is separating the 9-1-1 Centers which would be enormously expensive, so looking at it that way – there are several areas in which it might cost taxpayers more,” Flynn told us.
He says the merger operated on funding sources from both Savannah and Chatham County. “All of those sources together in one budget bought police stations like the Island Police Station, places like that and bought cars and uniforms and equipment, probably tasers, things like that and you now need to separate whose is whose,” he said.
Flynn still believes overall, the merger is a good policing model for both sides. “But the real problem seems to be that city government and county government can’t get together and make it work.”