SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — The City of Savannah is working on their 2018 budget right now, and it’s going to be a tough process for many.
While public safety has been called a “key” for the city’s future and officer salaries have been increased, cuts still could be coming to the department.
Civilian employees from the Savannah Police Department are on edge after they got a letter from the city saying budget cuts could cost them their jobs.
And some of these employees even had to take a timed test to prove they knew what they were doing on the job–and it could affect whether they stay or go.
WSAV’s crime expert and former Savannah Police Major Gerry Long says some of the cuts could be a mistake.
“If you call or a victim calls or a witness calls, and that phone is unanswered because all of your police officers are out investigating or responding to calls–and that phone is unanswered because your officers are away–that can adversely affect an investigation. Myself, as an individual, I don’t want to call and not get a live person to talk to.”
Also on the chopping block, the CRO–Community Resource Officer position.
Twenty-one of the men and women who “connect” with the community fall under this position, but are not sworn officers.
According to the city, the elimination of certain staff positions was done to “right-size” the organization.
And with four police precincts instead of six, there’s less of a need for clerical staff.
Police are not alone in the cutbacks; a total of 64 positions are being eliminated city-wide.
Among those cuts include the entire Savannah Ambassador program that started just two years ago. Those jobs were designed to help tourists find their way around the downtown and historic districts, but now the 13 positions will be no more.
In their place, SCMPD has asked for ten new officers to help patrol the parking decks and streets around them.
Long isn’t sold on that idea. “There shouldn’t be confusion between a public safety function, the police and a public service function. They are not security guards, they are police officers. They don’t necessarily have the specific time to give guidance to a tourist that may need it.”
190 positions that were frozen have reopened–10 new civilian positions in the department.
For current civilian positions, their jobs will end January 1.