City prepares internal affairs probe into crime report claims - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Savannah prepares internal investigation into crime report allegations

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SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -

Serious accusations continue to mount as a former police officer alleges Savannah-Chatham Metro Police Department falsified crime reports to make the city seem safer.

The city of Savannah is now telling council members to give all information of alleged wrong doing and complaints from residents to the city manager, Stephanie Cutter, so an investigation can begin.

Last week, WTOC showed you the 2012 crime report released by SCMPD showing a 12 percent drop in overall crime.

Police Chief Willie Lovett called the central precinct the biggest success story with a 24 percent drop in overall crime including a reduction in violent crime by 12 percent. 

On Wednesday, WTOC spoke to former soldier and now former police officer Steven Hummel. Hummel used to work at the central precinct for SCMPD but resigned from the force last month, claiming he was told to change his reports to reflect less severe crimes.

The latest word from city hall is there will be an internal affairs investigation. An e-mail went out to council members Friday morning, requesting all information they have be given to the city manager and then passed on to the chief of police and internal affairs.

Every complaint, e-mail, and claim will be discussed, from reports from citizens about officers not reporting crimes or discouraging crime reports being filed to the very detailed, and most serious charge to date, allegations of Hummel, whose four page description of police department issues was sent to Alderman Tony Thomas. 

Hummel resigned from the department in good standing, according to SCMPD spokesman Julian Miller. 

The complaints are still piling up for some council members. Three are at the center of the controversy, including Thomas, who alleged in public Tuesday possible officer wrong doing after a meeting about crime in Coffee Bluff last weekend.

Thomas told WTOC he received a call from Hummel one month ago, before the crime report was released, regarding his allegations. Thomas told him to send him detailed information, but did not receive anything until Wednesday night. 

Alderman Van Johnson joined Thomas in questioning officer reporting, claiming he heard the same complaints from citizens and questioned the crime report's accuracy.

Alderman Tom Bordeaux questioned the timing and forum of the allegations from fellow council members and called it a witch hunt and slanderous while speculating about any actual proof of wrong doing.

WTOC showed each alderman the interview and details of former officer Hummel's explosive allegations. Each had their own take on this latest and most serious claim. 

"Frankly, this isn't the kind of investigation which should be conducted in public but by competent, independent people in private," Bordeaux told WTOC.

"We just don't need to rush to judgement here. Obviously, they are serious allegations raised, but not specific allegations," Johnson said.

"They are saying internal affairs. I'm trying to clarify, who is looking into this? Is the GBI or internal affairs? We got to get to the bottom of it regardless of what it is," Thomas said.

All indications, it could be both internal affairs and an outside agency. WTOC contacted Chief Lovett's office and Julian Miller, public information officer for SCMPD, said the chief stands by his statement issued Wednesday.

Lovett's office, according Miller, nor the chief himself have received any information, allegations or claims, specific or not, being made by citizens or former officer Hummel. Miller said once Lovett has all the information, he will decide whether to hand it over to GBI or the feds. It is yet to be determined.

Savannah Mayor Edna Jackson is in Washington and won't be back until Wednesday. A meeting of the full council, city manager Stephanie Cutter and Chief Lovett is still expected to happen at some point, possibly as early as next Thursday.

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