SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — They may be splitting, but the City of Savannah and Chatham County Police Departments are not done with each other just yet.
The city received a letter last week from the county asking for “assistance to provide police services to the West Chatham area until the department is up to staff.”
That’s because Chatham County only has 44 sworn officers so far, with 51 more still in the “hiring process.”
That number is far short of the nearly 130 they want to provide full services to the unincorporated areas of the county.
“Our position is the city of Savannah will always help neighboring communities in time of need whenever the request assistance. If the county needs our help we will be there for them,” Rob Hernandez explained.
He said he was surprised by the request, but it’s not a surprise considering starting a police department is not something jurisdictions do daily.
“We are happy to assist wherever possible,” he said.
Despite reports that all those other cities have turned down the county’s request for help, News 3 spoke to at least one local Chief of Police who did respond with a proposal in writing.
The county says they’ve been talking to other cities since July, and no one has said “no” yet.
In a statement to News 3, Chatham County says:
The total staffing numbers for sworn officers for Chatham County is approximately 120-130 officers. Currently, we have 44 officers on staff and 51 people in various stages of the hiring process. As it should be, the hiring process is rigorous and lengthy. Chatham County is committed to hiring the highest quality personnel. Applicants go through several processes like interviews, polygraphs, psychological evaluations and background checks before they are hired by the Chatham County Police Department.
We knew when the City of Savannah voted to end the police service contract that it would be hard to recruit every officer need for the police force. To that end, discussions have been underway with all the municipalities since July to establish intergovernmental agreements to assist in patrolling unincorporated county areas while Chatham County Police increase staffing levels. An agreement of this type will probably be needed for 90-120 days.
Chatham County and all of the municipalities in the County are working in partnership to ensure there will be no public safety gaps while Chatham County Police and Savannah Police transition away from a joint police department.