SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Some current and former officers say the Savannah Police Department (SPD) is plagued with mismanagement, low morale and a chief who is more worried about his future career than his current officers.
It all started with an anonymous letter sent to city officials last month.
News 3 talked to multiple former and current police officers last week about the situation. Now Savannah’s Chief of Police, Roy Minter, is offering his opinions.
The letter says 16 sergeants have left the department in one year. It shares stories of officers who say they would take a pay cut or retire rather than staying on Savannah’s police force and makes claims of favoritism, ethical lapses and corruption.
In the three-page letter, there are also scathing accusations of culture and lack of leadership from Minter that’s caused a mass exit and deep divisions not seen for a decade.
“I thought it was an unfair characterization of what the current state of the department is,” explained Minter. “I’m not calling it one disgruntled officer, what I’m saying is if there are issues or concerns that are going on in the SPD and officers feel that they are important enough to be addressed come talk to us I’m always available.”
“If you believe that,” News 3 asked Chief Minter. “Then why would these things happen and why would I be getting officers talking to me about how morale is incredible low?’
“I can’t answer that because what I am getting is an anonymous source,” Minter answered. “I can’t corroborate anything from an anonymous source.”
The department is, in fact, 16 sergeants down right now. Many have left after 15 years, giving up the possibility of advancement and even taking a pay cut to leave the Savannah Police Department.
Minter will not blame that on the culture on the streets.
“You have to look at the reason why they are leaving. If someone has dedicated a certain number of years to the department and they have decided to retire we thank them and applaud them for that,” the chief said. “If people are leaving for family reasons, maybe the schedule doesn’t fit them anymore then those are personal decisions that are being made.
“But I am not seeing or not hearing a lot about people who are leaving the department because they are disgruntled.”
Is there a lack of leadership inside the department with the shortage of sergeants on the streets? News 3 asked Minter if there are concerns about corporals running watches and officers who are not as well trained involved in a management situation.
“It’s not necessarily a bad thing we have corporals filling in but we also want to make sure we fill those supervisory vacancies that we have,” he said.
The chief said he doesn’t see the number of sergeants down as a sign of problems within the department.
“I see it as a process that we are moving forward with filling. But we are not seeing any specific supervisory issues because we don’t have sergeants in specific positions,” Minter said. “Those individuals that have left the department who were sergeants and had a certain level of experience had to start somewhere, they just didn’t walk in the door with a certain amount of experience. “
Some officers say they are running from call to call, calling themselves glorified “note-takers” more than police officers because of the 85 officers still not on staff at SPD.
“Do you believe you have stretched some of these units too thin for the violent crimes task force?” News 3 asked.
“That’s not the report that I’m getting but that doesn’t mean we don’t need to go back and have a conversation with people,” Minter said. “If that’s the case, then we will go back and readjust accordingly.”
News 3 has been told there is a shortage of detectives in various units, including Aggravated Assault, where the numbers of cases are up significantly.
“That unit (and the Family Violence unit) only have five detectives between them to do the job, with the numbers as high as they are aggravated assaults. Isn’t that a major issue to only have 5 detectives to do the number of cases that seem to be growing?” News 3 asked.
“We are really focused on the proactive part and getting ahead of the gun violence so our detectives don’t have to investigate so many cases,” Minter said.
The chief told News 3 he’s not trying to cause stress or strain on his department.
“I didn’t come in the door trying to make this ‘Roy Minter’s Police Department’ this is the Savannah Police Department, and as long as they are out there serving the citizens of Savannah and doing it in a courteous manner that’s what I am looking for,” he added.
Minter said this job isn’t about his own future, but the city’s future.
“This job is about Savannah and the future. I have made that very clear to our community members, I’ve made it very clear to members of the department,” he said.
The chief also addressed his departure from his previous position in Peoria, Arizona:
“I left the city and left the department as rated by Wallethub as one of the safest cities in America. Also a city that was a called a gold standard police department and a city where just about every vacancy was filled. I also did not leave because of any vote of no confidence. I left because I was ready to retire, and move on from the Peoria police department.”
Minter says some of those sergeant positions could be filled in the next few weeks, now that testing issues have been fixed.
He has plans to create a new supervisor’s training program headed by the assistant chief.
There is also an Employee Representative Group at SPD to help sworn and non-sworn employees express their grievances.
Minter points to the fact there have been four academy classes this year, and he plans for three more next year as a sign of good health in the department.