SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Mayor Van Johnson shrugged off demands Tuesday, from the Racial Justice Network, for the state and the DOJ to investigate the Savannah Police Department, following five officer involved shootings this year.

He said they have their facts wrong and should focus on the whole problem of local gun violence.

“I hope that they put the same energy towards, not only the other cities in Georgia but put the same energy in towards the shootings we’ve had where Black men on Black men in Savannah and across the state… because there have been more of those than there have officer-involved shootings,” Johnson told reporters during his weekly press briefing.

During the same briefing, the mayor highlighted salary increases for new hires at the Savannah Police Department and Fire, approved by city council last week. New hires will get $50,000 to start at SPD and $48,000 at Savannah Fire, both up from the previous $44,000 starting salary.

“These initiatives represent nearly $4.3 million in annual, additional investments in public safety,” Johnson said. He went on to detail retention and referral bonuses also approved by the council.

“A $5,000 new hire sign-on bonus, a two year $5,000 retention incentive, and a $7,500 dollar lateral entry sign-on bonus,” Johnson added.

Also on Tuesday, our first time hearing from SPD’s Interim Chief Lenny Gunther, a 21 year veteran of the department. Sworn in Saturday, after former Chief Roy Minter officially stepped down, Gunther says he’s been working on plans for the department, for the last month.

“These plans include everything from recruiting and retention, crime reduction strategies, community partnerships and relationships, and workforce development,” Gunther said.

Johnson also addressed the local increase in COVID-19 cases as well, saying the city currently has 23 employees out sick with the virus. He’s encouraging more people to get vaccinated, and says while there’s no city mask mandate right now bringing it back is not off the table.