Late this afternoon, Savannah's City Council passed the long-awaited city-county police merger. The county had voted to pass the merger about a month ago, and with the city following suit today, the combined Savannah and Chatham County department will be known as the Metropolitan Police Department.
Fifteen drafts and years after it was initially proposed, the merger was voted in unanimously. Surprisingly, there was not that much discussion on the issue. The city had all of its questions answered earlier in a pre-council meeting, making it a quick decision this afternoon.
"I think it's historic and progressive and it paves the way for a much safer Savannah in the future," said Savannah police chief Dan Flynn.
"I think it's good for the community, for both the city and the county," said Savannah alderman Pete Liakakis.
"I'm relieved," said Chatham County police chief Robert Oliver. "It's been years, it's been two long years. I was involved in the merger talks from the beginning, and it's a relief that we've finally come to this point. We got the green light from the elected officials today, we received the green light from the county commission a few weeks back, and we're just ready to move forward."
Though Chief Flynn will be heading up the combined Metropolitan Police Department, and Chief Oliver says he will help get things started.
Now that the contract has been signed, the real work begins:
*The biggest issue according to city officials is the new 911 center. SPD currently has its at Habersham and Oglethorpe, and they'll have to add on to it, which they hope will take no more than six months.
*The next item will be two new precincts in the county in addition to Savannah's four.
*The officers will need to be sworn in to give them jurisdictional powers in both the city and the county.
*New uniforms and new cars with new logos on them will be needed. The funding for that has already been set aside from SPLOST monies.
*For the first time ever, the 2005 budget will have to include the needs of both former departments.
"We have work to do," said Savannah city manager Michael Brown. "I think first and foremost is to get all the officers and make sure they understand, that's been already started. We will actually do a set of milestones for both physical changes and procedural changes."
Officials will begin the work of merging the departments immediately. Tomorrow, both departments are planning a news conference at 10am, and of course WTOC will be there to bring you continuing coverage.