Mutual aid police agreements redefined: Who will come to the res - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Mutual aid police agreements redefined: Who will come to the rescue?

(Source: WTOC) (Source: WTOC)
CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) -

The Savannah-Chatham Metro Police Department has had a mutual agreement with surrounding police departments for years. 

They've agreed to send resources to these other municipalities when needed. The end of the Savannah city and county police merger might also end this agreement. 

Savannah-Chatham Metro Police Department protects everyone in the area and also responds to calls in Pooler, Effingham, Port Wentworth, and whoever needs help in the Savannah area - especially their 911 Emergency Center. The city is pulling away from the county with the dissolving of this merger, and so are Savannah taxpayers. They say they can't keep pulling out their wallets for police services hours away. 

"If you need something, I've got it, it's yours."

That's been the case for the Garden City Police Chief for as long as he's been around. 

"We have had, over the years, a mutual aid agreement with all of the surrounding municipalities. I have one with Port Wentworth, I have one with Tybee; I have one with all of the law enforcement agencies that are around us," said Police Chief David Lyons, Garden City. 

The primary agency is Savannah-Chatham Metro PD. Those involved are all of the police departments in the area. The mutual aid agreement clearly spells out the other police departments who are responsible for their home base, most of the time, but when something happens on a larger scale, Metro says they'll be there. 

"Let's say they need a SWAT team or hostage negotiation team, or the bomb squad. It's the City of Savannah Police Department that responds," said Savannah City Manager, Rob Hernandez. 

It took a $100,000 study to show us that none of the supporting areas drop a penny to help pay for these costs...so who does? 

"Those costs are born solely by all of you that are in the room, assuming all of you are City of Savannah taxpayers. We don't think that's fair," said Hernandez. 

Hernandez says he's not going to ask the city to fund other jurisdictions, just because that's what we've always done. If there are mass emergencies, like a hurricane, Hernansez says they will never say no to assisting. However, services like SWAT, Dive and Rescue, and really any other overtime service can no longer be justified. The city manager's job is to make sure every dollar is accounted for. 

"No agency within the city of Savannah - that includes the police department and the fire department - has a blank check -especially when it comes down to overtime. So, each business unit is expected to manage their overtime, and when they need budget transfers for additional funds for overtime or what have you, we want to know why," Hernandez said. 

Chief Lyons says the real question is, how big are these bills if the supporting police say they rarely make these calls for help?

"I can probably count on one hand the amount of times I know of - and I'm not saying they were called out for Garden City - I'm talking anywhere - that they responded to another municipal call," he said. 

The city says, if you need a few officers from time to time, they'll be there. If you need a team of dogs occasionally, give them a call. However, they do say they are no longer in a position to be subsidizing all services for the area. 

Hernandez says everybody has to justify their needs for dollars. For example, he says it's hard to penalize Chief Lumpkin when he has a $50,000 charge of overtime, but it's just as hard to tell taxpayers to pay up for services in another city. Hernandez believes in mutual aid, but also believes the current agreement needs modification. 

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