SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Originally from the Bronx, New York, the Army brought a 21-year-old Lenny Gunther to Savannah. He remembers admiring SPD officers while he worked the deli counter at Kroger.
“I used to say to myself, man, you know, I want to do that. They really look sharp and everyone is talking to them and having a good time with them,” he recalled during WSAV’s first sit-down interview.
Gunther began as a patrol officer with Savannah Police in 2001. Over the course of 21 years on the force, he’s been an investigator, internal affairs sergeant and assistant chief under Roy Minter.
Now he runs the department that has struggled to hire and maintain officers in recent years.
“The number one thing that I see is to ensure that the members of the Savannah Police Department understand their voices, their concerns, their thoughts, their opinions are being heard,” Gunther said.
Gunther has set out to tackle a department-wide morale problem. It’s something his predecessor wouldn’t even acknowledge to News 3.
“We’ve created communications teams that we’re going to implement this month, going forward. Different teams at different precincts, and units that can speak for the collective,” he says.
The interim chief also says he plans to take a fresh look at the city’s epidemic of gun violence, including helping those who want out of that life and getting those who don’t out of our community.
“We have to develop robust intelligence networks to identify those individuals,” Gunther said. “We have to connect with our community, so they feel comfortable enough telling us about those individuals, but that’s what we’re going to do.”
And to the families who fear another officer-involved shooting, after the fifth SPD has seen so far this year, Chief Gunther says, “I would tell them that we’re taking a look at everything. We’re taking a look at the way we engage the community. How do we enhance that? We’re taking a look at, um, our training. You know, is there anything that we can do better?”
The city has yet to post the open chief position, but Gunther said when they do he intends to apply for the permanent job.