SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Two assistant police chiefs now serve on the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department, and they say the division of duties helps the department run more efficiently.
Police Chief Joseph Lumpkin appointed Assistant Chief Robert Gavin and Assistant Chief Kerry Thomas to replace a single spot vacated in July.
"Looking back, I didn't see myself as necessarily assistant chief," Assistant Chief Robert Gavin said. "I knew I wanted to solve problems and lead in the department."
Assistant Chief Kerry Thomas said he recently found an old resume that listed his goal as retiring from the department as Major.
"Nowhere did I ever expect to be an assistant chief," he said. "Throughout the years, just always wanted to be the police, always wanted to serve the community. I take it as a privilege and an honor. I also recognize that there's a lot of expectations from the community as well as the people that I work and serve with."
Assistant Chief Kerry Thomas
Thomas is a Savannah-native who has served on the force since 1988. Before becoming a police officer, Thomas was an Army tank commander and worked in logistics as a member of the National Guard.
"I always wanted to be one of the three," he said. "I always wanted to be a policeman. I always wanted to be either a fireman or I wanted to be in the military. So, I got a chance to go in the military. Then, as I got ready to transition out of there, wanted to be on the police department."
Before becoming assistant chief, Thomas served as the Patrol Division commander. He's worked in a number of different department divisions including the Criminal Investigations Division, Forensics, Support Services, Patrol Division and as deputy director of the Chatham-Savannah Counter Narcotics Team. He also served as a Weed and Seed law enforcement liaison.
As assistant chief, he will lead the department's Field Operations Bureau.
"Patrol operations and also the criminal investigation operations, as well as the initiatives of the End Gun Violence, some of the juvenile officers' programs," he said.
Assistant Chief Robert Gavin
Gavin also served in the military as Bradley Fighting Vehicle commander before joining the department in Savannah in 1995.
"I think I've always gravitated towards it," he said. "My brother's a police officer. My oldest brother is in the military, so, I mean, all of us have spent years in these type of positions. I think it was just something we were brought up to do."
Gavin served as the Management Services Division commander before becoming assistant chief.
Throughout his time, he worked in the Patrol, Special Operations, SWAT, Criminal Investigations, Internal Affairs and Management Services divisions. Now, he'll lead the department's Administrative and Management Operations Bureau.
"Everything from bringing in new police officers to training them, giving them the tools and the abilities to go out and do the job," he said. "I like to solve problems. I like to find ways to fix issues, and I think this position gives me the ability to do that in all different aspects of the police department and the community."
Both said serving in the community in which they live puts an added emphasis on the importance of their jobs.
"You know, I think here, it becomes personal," Gavin said. "I live in this community, I'm part of this community, and I think it's so important that we work to bring that community in with the police department and make this a better place, make this a safer place."
Thomas said, "Have ties in the community, grandkids growing up in the community. I have a vested interest in the community, live in this community, so it's important for me to serve in a capacity that's going to make this community better. Serving in the capacity I'm serving in helps me to help guide and lead directives, and through directives, to continue to help the men and women that can benefit from my experience."
They said the delegation of duties allows SCMPD Chief Joseph Lumpkin on the vision of the department as a whole and strategies to get there and gives the community a more efficient department to serve them.
"We are going to ensure that our positions are run and that the chief is able to use our assistance to push those strategies and organizational goals of crime reduction, a safer place to live, a safer place to be," Gavin said.
Thomas said, "What it means for the community is an opportunity to benefit from the training, the experience, the knowledge that I have in the intelligence-led policing field."
Both said putting these practices into place now will help the soon-to-be Savannah Police Department hit the ground running.
"We're not going to miss a beat," Gavin said. "We're not going to miss a call."
Thomas said, "Even though we're kind of downsizing as far as territory, we still have the responsibility of crime issues that are going on, the response times, meeting those goals. So with that, it's a more proficient and efficient way of delegating and achieving those goals."