CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - Thursday is the day the Chatham County Police Department and Savannah Police Department become separate forces..
Chatham County police officers are officially out on the streets and answering calls.
The county force had their first roll call Wednesday night. Shortly after, they were out patrolling the streets. They responded to about 20 calls in their first nine hours on patrol.
Under the prior merged department, some county leaders felt residents in the unincorporated area just weren't receiving the police coverage they were paying for. This department, they said, changes that.
We did ask the chief what his officers were doing when it comes to building those relationships in the community given most have only seen sheriff or metro patrol cars for a long time.
"We understand I think in a very simple way what the community is expecting from us. We talk about timeliness and response times but also getting to know us and being visible, them being able to communicate with us," said Chatham County police chief Jeff Hadley. "They understand that that's the expectation."
The sheriff re-affirmed his commitment to help Chief Hadley with patrols as long as they're needed.
On the city side, they said they have the officers. The cars and uniforms making the switch to the Savannah Police Department will take time. The mayor said the demerger allows the chief to focus on issues in Savannah.
"It makes it easier to focus on particular areas and particular situations. It'll make it a lot easier on that. It's a different type policing that we do in town versus what you do outside of town," Mayor Eddie Deloach said.
He admitted starting a new force with a new chief seems difficult, but he said the city has the right leadership in place to make it work.
"It is a big deal as far as the citizen is concerned, as far as the politician is concerned, I feel like it's a really big deal. In reality, we've got great police," Deloach said. "We've got great leaders. They take it and they've been planning, setting it down on paper and said this is how we've got to do it."
The county's chief said getting quick response times and good community relationships are important to him and his department. He thinks those things will improve with time and more officers on the force.
The county does still need about 80 officers. Balancing the hiring and launching of a new department is what the chief and his team must do.
"It's been challenging. But I got a great team and again as I said 100 times, we've got a lot of people who want to make this successful and that makes it a lot easier," Hadley said.
Chatham County police officers also do not have body cameras. The chief said it's in the plans but they're just not ready for it yet. In the meantime, the sheriff deputies helping with patrols do have body cameras.