SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Standing next to the City’s police chief, Mayor Van Johnson laid out the plans for the Savannah Citizens Accountability and Review of Emergency Services, or CARES, on Wednesday.
Johnson says recent protests sparked the idea to create a diverse task force with the goal of improving the Savannah Police Department (SPD).
“I think the biggest thing for me is if you don’t understand us, how can you protect us?” said Dr. Larinda King, a local pastor and member of the Savannah CARES task force.
The mayor and every member of the council nominated 20 community activists, religious leaders, attorneys, NAACP members, and more.
“To be asked to be part of this was an honor as a black woman and a leader in this community…and someone who feels a responsibility not to fight back with anger but to walk in reconciliation,” said King, who was nominated by District 5 Alderwoman Dr. Estella Shabazz.
Johnson says the task force will start by investigating incidents involving use of force and internal affairs data.
“We’re not reviewing arrests,” he explained. “It was how you were treated, how the use of force policies were carried out.”
The community will then have an opportunity to share their personal experiences with police officers. The mayor says it’s a step that needs to be taken — even during a pandemic.
“This is an important step to go from moment to movement to work on making Savannah a beloved city,” said Johnson.
In addition to figuring out how they will meet, the task force is discussing how they can safely gather community testimony. The mayor says they have not ruled out hosting socially distanced meetings, zoom calls or email campaigns.
After community input is gathered, the task force will make recommendations to Minter and City Manager Pat Monahan. City council and the public will then have an opportunity to review the final report, which should be completed in the next 90 to 100 days, according to the mayor.
“We see this as an opportunity for two things: an opportunity for education and consultation,” said Minter who says SPD is on board with incorporating the findings of the task force.
Eventually, the task force may be asked to investigate other agencies like Savannah Fire.
Along with King, members of Savannah CARES are as follows: attorney Diane Morrell McLeod, chair, Dawn Baker, attorney James Blackburn, Willie Brooks, Rev. Katie Callaway, attorney Michael Edwards, Kenneth Glover, Michael Johnson, Cpl. Sharif Lockett, Anthony Maben, Pastor Ricardo Manuel, David McDonald, Dr. Marie Miller, Pam Miller, David Minor, Jim Morekis, Eugene Priester, Natavia Sanders, and attorney Abda Quillian.
Watch Wednesday’s press conference in full below.