City manager, chief discuss SCMPD - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

City manager, chief discuss SCMPD

City Manager Stephanie Cutter, left, and interim Police Chief Julie Tolbert believe the SCMPD is back on the right track. City Manager Stephanie Cutter, left, and interim Police Chief Julie Tolbert believe the SCMPD is back on the right track.

On Monday, City Manager Stephanie Cutter and interim Police Chief Julie Tolbert sent the message that they think the department is back on track.

Cutter said she is happy with the progress made in dealing with a host of issues plaguing the department. Is it over? No, more jobs could be on the line, but one job, picking a new police chief, is now a top priority after a host of terminations, resignations and overhaul at the police department.

Cutter and Chief Tolbert addressed the state of the police department together, and they said officers now understand there will be no more protecting friends.

They also said if officers do anything illegal, they will be terminated, creating a zero tolerance policy.

Both said they are focusing on the future.

Cutter commended Tolbert on the job she and her command staff have done over the last five months while an independent agency continues its probe into the Internal Affairs Office. They are waiting for an assessment and suggested action.

"I think we have turned the corner," said Cutter. "I don't have to micromanage anymore because the trust is there. The integrity is there and they fully understand the importance of taking care of our city staff."

Cutterand Chief Tolbert said they were shocked by what an independent investigationfound. When they started to peel back the layers of the department and realizedthey had bad officers to get rid of, they said it was eye opening.

They bothagree the department has turned the corner, but they also readily admit thereis still work to be done.

"I hadalready heard that officers were doing this," said Cutter. "I didn't believeit."

Shebelieves it now. They both said they didn't know how deep the mess they neededto clean up would be.

"Officersare human, too," Cutter said. "They make mistakes, just like everyone elsemakes mistakes. All of this has been very eye opening."

"On thesurface you never know what will occur when you open up that can, but when itwas opened there was things that came out we were not expecting," said Tolbert."But we dealt with them and are still dealing with them."

Officershave been terminated or transitioned out of command positions. Tolbert said ifyou do something illegal, there won't be any resignations.

"No, youwill not just walk out the door and join another agency," she said. "You willpay a penalty for that."

She saidthe message has been made clear to her officers.

"We hopethey are paying attention and this is not something we will tolerate within theagency. Yes, it is zero tolerance," said Tolbert.

Meanwhile,the city is dealing with nearly a dozen lawsuits stemming from allegationsagainst the former chief, and officers.

"If thereare frivolous complaints, no, we are going to fight them," Cutter said.

Cuttersaid the bottom line is, while more changes may be on the way, the bulk of thepolice department issues should be behind them.

"The commitmentwas to clean up and prepare for the new chief coming in," Cutter said.

Theinvestigation was only supposed to take one month, but it has now stretchedinto five months.

Cutter iswaiting on feedback and a report on Internal Affairs, so more changes may becoming. The investigation has cost the city $180,000 so far.

There is no specific timeline for the new chief search and recruitment, but Cutter said it will begin soon.

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