SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – The impact of George Floyd’s death reverberated through communities across the country, including right here in Savannah.
At his weekly presser, Mayor Van Johnson took time to reflect on last year’s Black Lives Matter protests and what it means for the city moving forward.
“I was full of emotion that day,” said Johnson.
It was on May 31, 2020, when protesters filled Savannah’s streets. Johnson and countless other city leaders marched alongside them.
Johnson says as a Black man, serving alongside a Black police chief, and a predominantly Black city council, the killing of George Floyd was personal.
“I appreciated Chief Minter and particularly our command staff and officers because there were marches every day,” said Johnson, “and they were out there in front marching along with them.”
Johnson credits the pandemic and the silence caused by the near-total shutdown of the nation for amplifying the voices of millions across the country.
“For once, our world was quiet enough where this was not news and then in other news,” said Johnson. “Everybody was paying attention, and people singularly said, ‘We had enough.'”
Those cries led to the creation of the Savannah CARES task force, which stands for Savannah Citizens Accountability and Review of Emergency Services.
The task force laid out 12 different reform recommendations for Savannah police, including de-escalation, crisis training, and use of force review.
SPD implemented many of the recommendations, like prohibiting the use of chokeholds and warning shots in all cases.
“One of the things we stress to members of our department is every day we go out there is an opportunity to make another deposit in the public’s trust bank,” said Savannah Police Chief Roy Minter. “Because you never know when you’re going to have to make a withdrawal from that trust bank.”
Johnson says there’s still work to be done, but he believes the role of police in our community is forever changed.
“As a result, every police officer now, I think, when they are engaging with people, George Floyd is on their mind,” said Johnson.
Johnson says the Savannah CARES task force is still meeting regularly and plans to submit its final report in the upcoming weeks.