Chatham County asks sheriff's office for help as demerger looms

Chatham County asks sheriff's office for help as demerger looms

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Chatham County leaders have decided against using the city of Savannah for police services in the unincorporated part of the county after February 1st.

Instead, they're asking the sheriff for help in a last-ditch effort to patrol that area. The sheriff says this is the first time they've asked for his help in the whole demerger process.

The county is scrambling to find options to complement the small amount of officers they have ready. The city manager sent a letter to the mayor and council saying the county manager informed him they're going with the sheriff's office and not the City of Savannah for police services after February 1st. Only about 30% of the department will be on board when the force launches on February 1st. The county started out hiring only Georgia POST-certified officers.

"We needed officers that we could hit the ground running with," said Cheif Jeff Hadley with the Chatham County Police Department.

The county manager and the police chief both insist the plan all along was to phase-in the department with help from surrounding agencies.

"We knew from the beginning, if you look at the city of Savannah, and right now Pooler, people are struggling across the country to recruit officers, patrol particularly," said Chatham County Manager Lee Smith.

They asked the sheriff for help patrolling parts of the county where new officers won't be able to get, namely the west-side of the unincorporated county. The Sheriff has never been required to offer services like this so he has no detectives, no SWAT team, no specialized crime units, or any of that. He's simply offering to provide patrols for visibility and the ability to answer 911 calls.

A county spokesperson could not confirm that decision mentioned in the email. The sheriff says his office is drawing up a plan and the two agencies are negotiating a price for the services.

It's important to note, these costs will not come out of the county's general fund or the sheriff's budget. It will instead come out of the special services district fund. That is the money that would pay for police services in the unincorporated county anyway.

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