SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – After four years as the Savannah’s top cop, Chief Roy Minter is stepping down, he said, to focus on his next potential career move as a U.S. Marshal.
Minter’s announcement came one week after a white officer of the Savannah Police Department (SPD) shot and killed 31 year-old Saudi Lee, a Black man, and a day after local religious leaders demanded the chief step down.
Lee’s death marked the department’s fifth officer-involved shooting so far this year.
“There will be a series of protests in front of this police department to demand that this police chief step down,” said Elder James Johnson, founder of the Racial Justice Network.
“We don’t think that he’s doing a good job in training his officers,” Johnson added.
Back in April, after the city’s fourth officer-involved shooting, some city leaders like Alderman Kurtis Purtee began questioning Minter’s leadership, citing a survey of SPD officers that indicated low morale on the force.
Minter’s tenure has also been plagued by escalating gun violence in Savannah neighborhoods, and at the same time, there’s been a dwindling number of officers on the street.
Current department vacancies top 100.
The chief spoke to WSAV News 3’s Andrew Davis about a staffing problem in 2019 when the department was down 16 sergeants, many taking pay cuts to leave.
“I don’t see it as a sign of problems,” Minter told Davis. “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 has faced other criticism from city leaders over years, including Alderwoman Kesha Gibson-Carter, who called out the department’s lack of transparency following the death of William Harvey while in police custody in 2021.
“We will demand transparency. We will demand higher standards within this police department,” Gibson-Carter said on the steps of SPD headquarters at the time.
Others have been at least publicly supportive of the chief.
Upon news of Minter’s resignation, Mayor Van Johnson said: “Chief Minter has been a consummate professional and his legacy will live in his historic promotions of women within our ranks, and the technological and programmatic advances that will keep the Savannah Police Department the premier municipal law enforcement agency in Georgia.”
Minter’s final day with SPD will be July 29. Assistant Chief Lenny Gunther, who has been with the department since 2001, will begin serving as the interim police chief the following day.