FBI: No federal violations over police reporting allegations - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

FBI: No federal violations after police reporting allegation review

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Gene Kowell, FBI agent Gene Kowell, FBI agent

Did the Savannah-Chatham Metro Police break the law with the way they filed police reports? The FBI delivered their final report Thursday morning. The results of the FBI review are being digested by Savannah City Council, who have some recommendations in the aftermath.

This all started with a dozen complaints from the community of police falsely reporting crimes or not reporting some crimes at all, as some alleged.

An internal affairs review found no wrongdoing, but to be on the safe side and win the public's trust back, the city manager and the chief of police decided to call on the FBI to look at the complaints and see if any federal violations were committed.

The main issue was in regards to whether or not police corruption existed and did residents have their civil rights violated earlier this year when allegations were made the police department was padding it's crime numbers to make it seem some areas of crime were not as bad as it seemed.

One of the 12 complaints was from a former police officer who claimed he was instructed to report some crimes as a different, lower level crime.

The FBI's Gene Kowell says their review found nothing federally offensive.

"We only looked at the 12 provided to us, looked at each one to identify if there was any federal nexus, any federal jurisdiction. We took a look at those complaints and none of the activity alleged rose to the level of a federal violation we would investigate," Kowell said.

For the FBI, it's over. However, the city of Savannah wants to see some changes to make sure this won't happen again. Kowell didn't say their review found wrongdoing, just nothing they would pursue on a federal level.

"Some of the allegations are serious, as far as policing, if they are true, I imagine they should be addressed," Kowell told WTOC.

Kowell says the FBI wasn't brought in to decide if police reporting complaints were valid but if there was evidence of corruption or civil rights violations.

"I mean, the FBI found there were no criminal conduct on the part of our police department," Alderman Van Johnson told WTOC. "I think everybody knew that. The question is what is crime? How is crime reported?"

"No. No corruption, and as he said, different municipalities handle numbers different ways," Mayor Edna Jackson told WTOC.

City council has tasked the city manager, Stephanie Cutter, with not only educating them on how the police department counts crimes but also with delivering Chief Willie Lovett some recommendations of their own.

"The way we are investigating crimes, the way we are reporting crimes, is it factual. It is transparent," Cutter said.

Cutter's anxious to see how the public reacts to the FBI report.

"I am hoping this relieves some of the fears and that may have been out there," she said. 

Agent Kowell says his FBI Savannah office already works closely with Savannah-Chatham Metro. He's confident the chief has addressed any issues lingering from the 12 initial police reporting complaints.

"I'm sure Chief Lovett if he was aware of anything in his department that arose to federal crime. I have no doubt he would call me and we'd work together to address that. These twelve, eh, I have no further comment," Kowell said.

The FBI says their role in all of this is over. Chief Lovett's office told WTOC today the Chief says the report speaks for itself.

Council has offered their recommendation to the city manager who will present them to the chief who is on the city council workshop agenda next month.

The main issue with crime reporting, council pointed out, was specific numbers. For example, they said if a street has three break-ins at houses right next door to each other, those three break-ins are reported as one. Council is working on some steps they would like to see the city manager and police chief work on in regards to how police reports are taken and reported to the public.

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