A candid conversation with SCMPD Chief Jack Lumpkin - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

A candid conversation with SCMPD Chief Jack Lumpkin


In just a couple months, Savannah Chatham Metro Police Chief Jack Lumpkin will have been on the job for one year. And it has been quite a first year for the 45-year police veteran. 

For the first time in more than a decade, the city approved raises for police officers that might actually be competitive with neighboring departments. 

The chief also launched a brand new approach to crime prevention. And the single biggest component of his crime fighting strategy has nothing to do with the 800 cops who work for him. But it’s a plan that will take years to develop for a chief whose tenure was originally set to last just five years. 

WTOC’s David Klugh asked Lumpkin where that anticipated tenure was now. 

“I told the City Manager I’m probably going to have to stay 10 years to straighten some of our problems out,” Lumpkin replied. 

As for questions raised about whether a 66-year old will last another 10 years in this kind of job, “I have the energy of I think, probably a 40 year old.”

Motivated by a farmer’s work-ethic he developed as a child, Chief Lumpkin wants you to know he’s no quitter. In fact, he built his reputation in Georgia law enforcement on solving problems like Savannah’s and doing it through an intense focus on getting direct police contact with the people they serve.

“Community oriented police and problem solving as I term it, you have to put both together,” he insists.  “The reason we exist is to help people solve problems, to prevent crime, to prevent the fear of crime and prevent disorder. The issue is a shared responsibility.  That the citizens and the police department have a shared responsibility to prevent crime, fear of crime and disorder. It’s a communication issue.  It’s a trust issue. And you don’t build trust with a vehicle going down the street and you can’t see the driver.”

Meaning he wants more officers making eye contact with you.  To make that happen, he also needs something else the police department hasn’t had in years, the ability to build a force and keep it.

Lumpkin admits he was not aware of just how desperate the attrition crisis was at Metro Police until he started seeing the numbers. 

“That’s one of the things I did not fully explore before I took the job,” the chief says.  “All the cities are losing officers to the smaller jurisdictions because it’s a much more complex, difficult job in the urban areas than it is in small town America.”

A new marketing campaign is already paying off for recruiters, bringing in four times the number of applications this department has been used to getting. And just in time as one in five officers leave the force every year. Why is that important to you, the tax-payer? 

It costs you $71,000 to train and outfit each officer.  Meaning each lost officer has already cost $11 million.

Lumpkin says despite a history within city government of underfunding law enforcement, much of the blame can also be placed on leadership within the police department itself.  And he is confident council and the City Manager can turn that around. 

“I’m certain that they can,” he says. “We have good stories to tell.  We have to tell the story.  We also have to tell the story when we didn’t perform as well as we thought we should have. From a personnel management perspective. I don’t think we’ve done that very well with telling our elected officials who are the stewards of the people’s money that this is what needs to happen.”

WTOC’s Klugh asked the chief if he thought he was getting the support from the residents of Savannah he thinks he should be getting to turn our high crime rates around. 

“I’m getting the support that I can understand and why the level is where it is because of past issues. Am I getting the shared responsibility mind set?  No, that has not been engrained here.  And it takes a year or two for people to start understanding it and really believing it.”

There is one thing the chief says police alone will never be able to do, and that’s keep you safe.  To coin a once popular phrase, “that takes a village”. 

The only option, he says to beat back crime in Savannah under his watch or any
other chief’s, is for the community to invest themselves personally. 

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