SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Corruption and favoritism: two words of many from a letter full of allegations regarding the Savannah Police Department and its Chief Roy Minter.
It’s a letter that’s making the rounds throughout Savannah City Government and the police department itself. There are allegations of problems that began before Chief Minter arrived, written by an anonymous member of the Savannah Police Department and sent to the mayor, all aldermen and women, and city manager.
In the three pages are also scathing accusations of a culture and lack of leadership from Minter that has caused a mass exit and deep divisions not seen for a decade.
News 3 reached out to dozens of current and former officers who validated many of the charges in that letter.
One, who asked his identity to be hidden, believes the problems start at the top and lead to dangerous situations on Savannah’s streets.
“When I saw the letter I thought this is many years boiling over,” he said. “Everything in that letter is accurate.”
The letter talks about the “corruption of ethical practices,” “lack of trust in the command staff,” “promotions that doom the future of the department” and officers committing crimes that are “shuffled away like dirty little secrets.”
The former longtime Savannah officer says he left the department for his physical and mental health, and because he couldn’t “buy-in” to a deteriorating culture inside the Savannah Police Department.
“It appears to me that Chief Minter is dividing the department in a way we haven’t seen for years,” he said. “He is looking to blame others. or at least insulate him from any blame.”
He added that he thinks the department is heading in a direction where officers can’t do their job.
“They are guilty by an accusation of anything that comes through and they are being asked to do the impossible with limited numbers or dwindling numbers,” he said.
Those numbers are dwindling rapidly. The city numbers show a total shortage of 50 sworn officers.
But according to Chief Minter’s own figures, those numbers include 17 trainees currently in the Police Academy, 17 more in Patrol School and 19 more are still Police Training Officers.
None of these men and women are finished with their training; they are not full-fledged officers alone on the beat.
The number is actually 103, with 17 to finish their PTO training by the end of August and 19 more at the end of November.
The biggest hole is at the position of sergeant. Right now the city is down 16 sergeants out of 67 that are supposed to be on duty.
“Sergeant is the most important rank on the entire police force,” the anonymous former officer said. “They influence everything an officer goes through on a daily basis on patrol.”
Men and women with 15-30 years of experience are leaving early or for other departments — even if it costs them service time and money.
“Sergeants are leaving the department to go to the Georgia Port Authority to become a basic patrol officer. Why? Because the money is going to be the same, the responsibilities are far far less,” he said, adding, “And they don’t have to look over their shoulder all the time trying to see who’s going to take them out career-wise.”
The Violent Crimes Task Force the chief has been touting has made some big arrests, and homicides are down slightly from the past two years. But the aggravated assault with a gun number is up 30% and without a gun are up 150.
The former officer says the blame for that starts on the streets with the lack of trained officers.
“The crime problem is exacerbated when you have 8 officers covering six beats when you probably need 12 officers doing what needs to be done every day at a grassroots level to battle crime,” he said. “Instead of trying to solve problems get ahead of problems, make problems not happen to begin with.
“We have created a culture there that’s basically looking for a designated blame taker every time something goes wrong.”
Many different current and former officers told News 3 the details in the letter were “spot on,” but wouldn’t go on camera because they said they are afraid of the repercussions either for themselves or friends still on the department.
News 3 spoke to at least one other police department in the area who said it has “a stack” of resumes of Savannah Police officers on the chief’s desk — all who want to get out.
We also reached out to Savannah Police Department representatives including Chief Minter. News 3 was told Chief Minter is out of town but would be willing to respond once he returns to the area.
We will also reach out to Savannah’s mayor and council for comment.