Public Policy Committee meeting following SCMPD study

CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - Just last week we learned more about a report from a consultant agency outlining the best practices and recommendations for the Savannah-Chatham Metro Police Department.

For the first time since the presentation, the Police Policy Committee is meeting to discuss the results.

Three big topics were discussed further Monday was the E911 Center, take home cars for officers and the funding formula for the agency moving forward.

When it comes to take-home vehicles for police, a consensus was reached between police policy members that the program would be expanding, looking at giving officers living in the city - who've completed 12 months of service - to take vehicles home.

City funds are not budgeted for a new 911 center, to replace the existing undersized center. The county could chip in out of their general fund, which is something the county manager is looking at.

When it comes to funding the department and meeting service level standards, which include response times, the city and county are still refining details and will have more meetings on that issue.

For years now, none of the other municipalities in the county including Garden City, Port Wentworth, Pooler and Thunderbolt have spent a dime to get those services. Why it took a $100,000 study to bring that fact to light is anybody's guess. But now that it's out there, it's likely to change.

As for the new 911 center to replace what we have now - too small, too old, too run-down, not even able to meet minimum state standards - that will have to wait until the next SPLOST.

However, in the meantime, the county and those small cities in the county are about to see their portion of protect and serve jump.

"As we stand right now, the taxpayers of the City of Savannah are subsidizing law enforcement for the unincorporated areas and our taxpayers are also subsidizing 911 service county-wide. We are no longer in the position to be subsidizing that service and so we need these issues resolved so we can get our budget in good condition for the fiscal year 2018," said Savannah City Manager Rob Hernandez.

The goal is by the end of June that the funding formula issue is resolved because of budget deadlines for both the City of Savannah and Chatham County.

"Once we are in agreement with the county, we would then put all of our other municipal partners on notice that they have to pay their fair share," said Hernandez.

By jump, that could mean millions of dollars added to the county's SCMPD bill.

Before the Berkshire study was commissioned, the city agreed to appease some on Chatham County Commission who believed the county was already paying too much for police protection.

The city lowered the county's bill with the understanding that if the Berkshire study said they should be paying more, the county would do just that retroactive to January of 2016. That study says the county should be paying considerably more.

The next meeting of the Police Policy Committee is next week.

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