Yesterday city council made the long-awaited merger of Savannah and Chatham County's police departments official. Today, the newly created Metropolitan Police Department answered questions about the merger. Chief Dan Flynn appeared with his entourage of both city and county top officers. He says all in all, he expects the department's morale to stay high, but of course does expect a few bumps in the road.
Flynn reiterated that all officers would only gain from the merger. "One of the commitments we made from day one, two years ago when we started working through this proposal, is that we shouldn't do it if any employee is going to lose anything, and that is a fundamental commitment."
According to Flynn, no officer will see a decrease in pay. In fact, he says many will see some sort of increase. The goal is that everyone with the same rank will make relatively the same amount of money. "We want to be sure that an employee from the county is still in the same range as their counterpart," said Flynn.
Flynn also says the merger will put roughly 22 more officers on the streets.
Though not many officers are sharing their personal feelings on the merger, some like Maj. Dan Reynolds, feel it's a step in the right direction. "The idea is we're all trying to move forward and be progressive," he said. "We have an obligation to improve law enforcement services. We all feel this is the first step in that direction."
One of the first steps in this merger is giving all officers the power to enforce laws in both the city and the county. Starting Monday, officers will be getting sworn in and will be getting that authority.
At Savannah's current 911 dispatch center, dispatchers only take calls and send out help to people who live within the city. In the past, it hasn't always worked. Calls meant for county officers would sometime end up going to the city, which caused a lot of confusion and slowed everyone down for years.
But with a combined police force and a combined dispatch center, it's all about to change. "Our goal will be nothing less than when you dial 911, you get help, so that there will be no confusion," said Chief Flynn.
Another big change the department wants to see happen fast are the addition of two new precincts. Savannah already has four precincts located within city limits, but two more will go up in the county. Flynn says one will built somewhere on Whitemarsh Island along Johnny Mercer Boulevard. The other will go up on the county's west side. "The one on the west side will be in the vicinity of State Road 204 and I-95, in that general area at a site yet to be determined," he said.
Other changes will include the fact that all officers, as long as they have at least two years experience and live within Chatham County, will be able to take their vehicles home. The city and county hope this will create more of a police presence and bring crime down.