Behind the Badge: Tolbert outlines priorities as interim chief - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Behind the Badge: Tolbert outlines top priorities as interim chief

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SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -

The Savannah-Chatham Metro Police Dept. is under fire. Former Police Chief Willie Lovett retires amid controversy – sexual harassment allegations.

Interim Police Chief Juliette Tolbert is asked whether she is concerned.

"Initially everyone was concerned when this first started - when Chief Lovett first left office.  The officers were very concerned about the state of the police department," she said.

Tolbert said they worked to reassure officers.

"Myself and the assistant chief, of course, coming on board, wanted to assure them that this organization was very strong, very stable. We had excellent officers in the field - and that we were going to move it forward," she said.

They went to each precinct and talked to everyone.

"We listened to them and they gave us feedback as to how they were feeling about the conditions that they were working under and we assured them that we would respond to those conditions and that's exactly what we're doing," she said. 

"Of course, we have some bad officers and we are working extra hard to get rid of them. None of us want to work with bad officers," she said.

But can she really clean this up?

"Oh, believe me she can. Believe me she can. You know, to begin with, she has no baggage," said Ret. Chief David Gellatly. "That's very important when you step into a position like that. Everyone knows her. She's a known quantity. And there isn't anyone who's going to give her any crap. Everybody in that department - all 600 employees - know exactly who's in charge - and that's important. I think she's a smart tough administrator - and I think she has a vision of where she thinks the department needs to go."

Gellatly said she is also determined to focus on the positive - even hosting the first Heroism Awards banquet in years.

"These are hard working officers and they deserve to be recognized for that," he said. "She's said she's not seeking the job permanently. But she's in no hurry to leave, not while there's work to be done."

Tolbert outlines her top priorities as interim chief.

"Right now, my primary focus is in moving this agency in the direction it needs to go in preparation for whoever may take over," she said. "I want that person to come in and have an agency that they can start, knowing that a lot of the issues that we're dealing with right now doesn't exist anymore that we have placed this agency at a point where this person can just pick it up and keep running with it - moving in the same direction that I've left it in."

Family and faith are also very important to Tolbert who's Catholic. She credits her husband Terry with the effective balance at home - especially with her mother living with them.  

She discussed many specific issues such as interagency cooperation at all levels including with the FBI and the Chatham County District Attorney's Office, concentrated task forces and more. 

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