SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — The Savannah Police Department (SPD) has been plagued lately with accusations of low morale and lack of transparency from department leadership.
And now, even some city leaders are speaking out about problems within the department that they say start at the top.
“It’s a little concerning as an alderman. As a police officer, it concerns me even more that we are seeing a little bit of a spike in use of force incidents when it comes to officer-involved shootings,” said District 6 Alderman Kurtis Purtee, who also is a police captain for Georgia Southern University.
Purtee says with four officer-involved shootings so far this year involving Savannah Police officers, he’s searching for answers.
“Is there a common factor that comes into play with all these individuals? Is it a mental health issue? Is it a training issue on police officers? Is it a community relationship issue with the police department? Is it a morale issue within the police department?”
Late last week, the alderman took to Facebook to address morale at SPD after seeing the results of a department-wide survey of officers. He says only 30% responded, but their answers were troubling.
“Within that survey, there’s a very big disconnect between the top leader of the department and the person that is out doing the daily functions of patrol officer,” Purtee said during a Zoom interview Monday afternoon. “That’s an issue, and I’m not alleging that this is happening in these shooting situations, but there’s definitely correlation between officer morale and use of force incidences. If morale is low, use of force incidences are high.”
Purtee says the fact that only a small percentage of officers responded to the survey is indicative of perhaps another problem.
“When you have 30% of your department that responds to something, and the other 70% that doesn’t because of folks that may feel like the survey isn’t anonymous or might feel like there’s some retribution attached to it, then that’s a clear-cut issue.”
When asked if it’s time to start thinking about some changes at the top at SPD, Purtee said: “I would tell you that that decision is reserved for the city manager, but I would definitely like to address the issues that we have in the department, and we are in a critical spot right now.”
WSAV News 3 reached out to Savannah Police Chief Roy Minter for comment.
A department spokesperson says they are “not in the practice of going on camera to refute statements made by elected officials, and will not this time either.”