Concluding a year of intense political struggle over money and control, the City of Savannah and the Chatham County Commission today unveiled an agreement which will preserve the endangered City/County police merger at least until summer 2017.
While the term of the agreement is ten years, there is a two-year "phase in to formulate an evidence-based approach to future operations and cost share," the agreement reads.
The agreement takes effect July 1, and the first step is to jointly hire and pay a law enforcement consultant to "provide guidance in the collection, analysis and interpretation of relevant data."
Over the first year, a new Staff Committee, including the City Manager, County Manager, and Police Chief, will meet with the consultant to resolve ongoing issues of precinct composition and beat structure.
No immediate changes to precincts and beats will take place, the agreement says.
During year two is when potential issues may come to a head; that's when an "amended agreement and cost formula consistent with the Committee's recommendations" will have to be hammered out and made effective by July 1, 2017.
The thorny issue of who the Police Chief will answer to seems to have been resolved mostly in the City's favor. The Chief will "fall under the City's organizational structure," a vague phrase which would seem to indicate the Chief answers to the City Manager alone.
But the agreement says, "However, the County Manager will have full access to the Chief and will participate in the evaluation of the Chief jointly with the City Manager."
The County Manager will provide specific direction to the Chief in issues concerning the unincorporated area.
As for hiring and termination decisions related to the Police Chief, the County Manager's influence is limited to being consulted and rendering a written opinion "to the City Manager for consideration."
As was expected, the County will now take over complete control of the Counter Narcotics Team, which will report directly to the County Manager rather than the Police Chief. Under the tenure of former Police Chief Willie Lovett, the Counter Narcotics Team's mission was allegedly compromised by corrupt officers placed on the unit by Lovett.
Animal Control and the Marine Patrol will also now come under complete control of the County Manager.
In addition, the merger agreement addressed the ongoing funding disagreements over Recorder's Court.