Community task force submits recommendations to Savannah Police Department

Community task force submits recommendations to Savannah Police Department

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Savannah Citizen Accountability and Review of Emergency Services has officially made its first set of recommendations.

They laid out 12 things they feel the police department should address moving forward.

The Savannah CARES task force really outlines policy change from additional training, community relations, and more. They believe this will make us a better city moving forward.

Some of the changes they recommended include professionalism, de-escalation, crisis training, use of force review board to include community members, changes to video review, call for service, how they contact complainants, shortening the length of investigations, no use of warning shots, increasing public education and explicitly prohibiting chokeholds.

Task force leaders say they originally thought they might have just a few recommendations, but after much discussion with the diverse group of people from media, law, citizens, and more, they felt these were a good start.

“We wanted to be able to put in and make recommendations that can be implemented immediately. Changes could be implemented immediately that will not affect the budget of the department," said Diane McLeod, Savannah CARES Chair.

Mayor Johnson says these recommendations were not only delivered to his office but Police Chief Minters as well. They will review them and plan to discuss the next steps soon.

You can read the submitted recommendations from Savannah CARES below:

Here’s a list of all on the Savannah CARES task force:

  • Attorney Diane Morrell McLeod, chair
  • Dawn Baker
  • Attorney James Blackburn
  • Willie Brooks
  • Rev. Katie Callaway
  • Attorney Michael Edwards
  • Kenneth Glover
  • Michael Johnson
  • Dr. Larinda King
  • Cpl. Sharif Lockett
  • Anthony Maben
  • Pastor Ricardo Manuel
  • David McDonald
  • Dr. Marie Miller
  • Pam Miller
  • David Minor
  • Jim Morekis
  • Eugene Priester
  • Natavia Sanders
  • Attorney Abda Quillian

The recommendations were announced during Mayor Johnson’s weekly news conference Tuesday morning. Re-watch below:

City of Savannah news conference, 9/29/2020

#Watch: Savannah Mayor Van Johnson is hosting his weekly news conference.

Posted by WTOC-TV on Tuesday, September 29, 2020

When we spoke with Chief Minter after the recommendations were announced, he says most of the things listed are already being worked on by the department. He says, now, it’s about making sure those policies are being carried out on a day-to-day basis.

“I’m very proud of, you know, looking at some of these recommendations the fact that a lot of them are things that we’ve already started to work on and we’ve already started really progressing on as an organization," said Chief Minter.

Chief Minter left Tuesday’s recommendations feeling largely confident in his department’s progress while agreeing there is room for improvement.

“We are continuing to look at things that we can implement as far as where you’re managing police. That will allow us to free up more time for our officers to spend more time out in the community.”

The chief noted they would assess the committee’s recommendation to alter their policy on warning shots.

“Warning shots are something that is still currently in the policy. That we need to review. That needs to go to the policy review committee.”

As well as tactical operations uniforms, which the chief says are only worn by a few people in SWAT situations.

“Make sure going forward that there is a clear understanding of who can wear those uniforms and when those uniforms are authorized to be worn.”

One recommendation emphasized by the mayor, banning profanity and demeaning language.

“As professionals we should not have a police officer, just, you know, just throwing profanity around,” said Mayor Johnson.

Something Chief Minter says is already expected, but will be more closely monitored.

“This is exactly what the people have been asking for for years,” said Chief Minter.

Councilmembers expect to see results quickly. Chief Minter added he’s confident his department will proactively work to solve issues as they arise.

“You know, I’m very fortunate that I have been on the forefront of looking at the alternatives for these types of things,” said Chief Minter.

We asked the mayor and chief when they expect these policies to be enacted, and the chief says as soon as he has time to discuss each recommendation with his staff, they will bring a report to city council. In the meantime, some recommendations, like increased professionalism, will be quickly implemented.

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