CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - The Chatham County Police Department is off and running. The first month is officially in the books.
Launching a new police department is no easy task for any police chief. We asked the county's top cop how things are going and where they can approve.
Hiring is the big question. Chief Jeff Hadley said that process is going well. However, there is a surprising and frustrating fact - about 70 or 80 percent of applicants are failing polygraph tests. Hadley is concerned so many applicants would fail ethical and integrity questions.
"We have let's say on the front end, 200 applicants and it gives you some optimism that you have some choices there, but when you're losing 70 percent or 75 percent of those at one part of your process, that 200 goes down to about 40," said Chief Jeff Hadley. "It is what it is. We're not going to hire someone who's not passing polygraph examination, so that we just have to double down on our efforts. At the end of the day, we want to hire the best people who can go out and do the job that we expect them to do and the community expects them to do."
The people we spoke to in the unincorporated county are thankful for this increased visibility.
"They're more visible. We had some break-ins in the area. Now having an extra presence here has really made us feel safer," said Berthenia Brown.
"I've seen them in the mornings, I've seen them later in the afternoons and evenings. It's a great comfort to know that they're here in the neighborhood," said Ron Hocutt.
The chief said the first month went better than expected. He tells me the joint patrols with the sheriff's office are better than expected.
"The sheriff's office has been fantastic. Savannah PD has been fantastic. Everybody has been kind of digging in and getting the work done," said Hadley.
The chief said they're focused on property crimes and proactive policing. As they hire more officers, they'll be able to do more of the proactive policing. Overall, he knows what their expectations are.
"They need to be visible. They need to be known. They need to be timely," said Hadley. "If we can work hard on those three things, as best we can as we're out there doing our work, I think we'll try to meet the expectations of the community."
The chief also said developing a three to five-year strategic plan is one of his main priorities. That would focus on things like staffing, equipment, recruiting, technology, and other ways to make the department better.
"Because we've been kind of running at 100 miles an hour, it'd be good to have someone help us press the pause button a little bit. Bring all those pieces together in a very organized, systematic approach," said Hadley.
County leaders have said it would take about six months to get fully staffed. The chief said anyone with a heart to serve should apply. The department is in a constant state of hiring. Overall, he's more than satisfied with where the department is right now.
The employment numbers are about the same as a report he gave last month to commissioners. CCPD still needs to hire about 80 of the 130 positions they have.
Still, Chief Hadley says he didn't have any expectations as far as numbers. The county will continue to focus on getting the most qualified officers to fill the ranks.