Savannah's elected leaders met Tuesday during a retreat to outline goals for the city in 2013, but the focus later turned to the latest crime report detailing Savannah' lowest crime rate in recorded history.
Some aldermen raised explosive concerns over crimes not being reported in all cases, possibly skewing the reports numbers and "painting a rosier picture of crime in Savannah than is reality."
Those words came out of the mouth of alderman Tony Thomas, who says at least six people and counting have contacted him and other elected officials about police officers discouraging police reports, specifically for property crimes.
"It's not an allegation I am making against the chief of police but it is an allegation out there that some officers are discouraging folks from filing police reports," Thomas told WTOC.
Alderman Van Johnson also said he had heard from citizens with the same account of dealings with police officers, and wondered if the public was getting a true report on the issue of crime from the Savannah-Chatham Metro Police Department.
"If crime is historically down, like the chief says it is, then why do we have to fund a drug unit? What is the sense of that if crime if lower now than it has ever been," Johnson said.
Thomas and Johnson raised these concerns almost two hours after the Chief of Police, Willie Lovett, had left the retreat.
Last week, Chief Lovett released the 2012 crime stats which showed violent crime down across the city with all precincts showing crime decreases. At the time, the Chief answered WTOC's questions after reaction to the report on WTOC social media platforms suggested report numbers may have been manipulated, a charge many communities across the country face when crime rates drop.
The Chief said then, there was no "number fudging" and said it was a federal offense to manipulate crime stats to get a desired result.
"I wouldn't risk my reputation or the reputation of this department," he said last week.
Alderman Tom Bordeaux immediately spoke out in the department's defense questioning the timing, and forum, for the allegations from the aldermen.
"It's a very sensitive subject and once you say it out loud, people take it as fact," Alderman Tom Bordeaux told WTOC, even saying the allegations, if unfounded, could be grounds for slander and character assassination. "These are very serious charges but they don't need to be thrown out there in public out all the facts and with the cameras there and without the police chief and the city manager. It doesn't make sense to me."
Mayor Edna Jackson said she will schedule a meeting between council and city manager Stephanie Cutter and Chief Lovett to explore the concerns Thomas and Johnson raised.
"I hope to have a meeting and executive session scheduled immediately," Mayor Jackson said. "We do not take these claims lightly."
Julian Miller, public information officer for the Savannah-Chatham Metro Police Department, told WTOC he would make Chief Lovett aware of the comments from the alderman when asked for a response to the claims.