Savannah, Georgia

Catherine Coles
Research Associate
Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management
John F. Kennedy School of Government
Harvard University

Case Study Prepared for the Urban Institute


In August of 1991, the City of Savannah released the Comprehensive Community Crime Control Strategy, an ambitious study commissioned by City Manager Arthur Mendonsa to document and address in a comprehensive fashion crime, poverty, and a range of related social and economic problems in the city. Developed in part as a re-election strategy of incumbent mayor John Rousakis during a heated electoral campaign, the study reflected strong local concerns over troubling social and economic conditions in parts of the city. Violent crime in these same areas was also rising—up by seventeen percent in 1991 from the previous year, and by over sixty-six percent from 1989.2 The Crime Control Strategy provided a response, an acknowledgement that changes in policing could help improve conditions in the city, and a map charting a course of action for the city itself, and the police department, over the next few years. Although not enough to save the mayor from defeat in November of 1991 after twenty years in office, for Savannah and its police department the changes that were ushered in marked a significant turning point.

The shape of the new policing initiatives would take the form of community and problem-oriented policing, to be carried out through the decentralization of policing services and devolution of command accountability in the city. Planning was done by Chief Gellatly and a small group of senior officers—in particular Majors William Lyght and Dan Reynolds—who worked with SPD Director of Planning and Research Mike Donahue to devise a new operational strategy and tactics. All of the goals set out in the Crime Control Strategy were addressed by the Savannah Police Department in a massive reorganization that began during the late summer and fall of 1991. With the “flip of a switch,” on October 1, 1991, SPD formally launched its Community Oriented Policing (COP) and Problem Oriented Policing (POP) initiatives. Writing in The Police Chief shortly thereafter, Donahue summed up the comprehensive approach that Savannah took as it moved headlong into community policing:

At bottom, it is likely that only those municipalities in which community policing is part of a much larger and substantive collaboration of social, political and financial commitments will see reductions in crime and violence. All resources in the community that have authority over and influence on the conditions that foster violence must be brought to bear on that problem. Nothing short of genuine collaboration is likely to make much difference.
The city of Savannah, not waiting to ascertain whether such efforts are judged by academics to be successful, has attempted to do precisely that . . . .3

By January of 1995, a case study of community policing in Savannah submitted to the National Institute of Justice by the Police Executive Research Forum reported that in spite of uneven implementation of community and problem-oriented policing, the department had “seized the opportunity,” and “was working hard to have a successful community-based policing program.” 4 Progress in building a community-oriented and problem-oriented policing capacity was enhanced in particular, according to the report, by additional funding and staff. Internally, SPD was found to be “heavily involved with developing organizational support structures to systematically expand the concept” while in the larger community, the department was collaborating with citizens through various groups such as the Savannah Crime Control Collaborative (which sought to reduce crime, juvenile delinquency, drug addiction and abuse through a multidisciplinary approach), and had created volunteer programs and a Citizen Academy.5

By 1997, another stage had been reached. Although total crime had increased slightly in 1996 primarily due to larcenies (which were at their highest total since the early 1980s and comprised nearly 2/3 of all Part I crime), homicides were at their lowest level since 1989, and rapes, robberies, and burglaries were down significantly. Neighborhood watch organizations had been formed throughout the City. Tourism was up 21.7 percent, and community support for the police was by and large positive.6 The Department itself had moved beyond the early stages of implementing community policing to a period of consolidation and reflection—honing the problem-solving skills of officers, considerably expanding training for supervisors as well as line officers, grappling with issues such as how best to manage new policing capacities that demanded heightened levels of flexibility, accountability and initiative from officers at every level. Such adjustments, according to SPD, reflected the philosophy that community-oriented policing would never be a finished product, but be continuously subject to improvement and modification.7

These outcomes represent the culmination of the formal reorganization and redirection that began in the SPD in 1990-91; yet Savannah’s police had been attempting to increase their responsiveness to and cooperation with citizens from the mid-1980s, in essence beginning the move toward community policing years before the formal program was initiated. At the same time, local government, civic leaders, and citizens representing neighborhoods and distinct communities were directing their own efforts toward the revitalization of troubled neighborhoods and greater collaboration as a means of improving the quality of life and conditions of safety for all citizens. The long-range development of community policing in Savannah reflects these two trends: within the Department, Chief Gellatly led a group of officers who early on recognized the value in working with citizens, and then incorporated new ideas about policing that were circulating around the country at the time. External funding, such as the COPS grants, supported the growth and expansion of the program. Yet policing Savannah style tapped into the roots and resources of the local community: the growth of community policing was fueled as well by the commitment of citizens to throw their lot in and work together, engaging and challenging the police through their efforts.

The City of Savannah, a Policing Heritage, and Origins of the Police Department

Savannah is an old city by American standards, established in 1733 by British General James Oglethorpe and members of his expedition, thirteen miles from the Atlantic coast on high bluffs overlooking what would be the Savannah River. In an area that was home to the Yamacraw branch of the indigenous Creek people, and named for salt marshes that covered the area between it and the ocean, the early town of Savannah grew up. It was laid out in a British settlement pattern concentrated around a series of grassy squares, most of which still exist in the city’s historic district. Georgia was to be a garden colony, producing silk, wine, olives, and other luxury items for the British Empire—which ultimately gave way to rice, cotton, and the importation of large numbers of slaves—as well as a military buffer to protect Carolina from Spanish Florida. An important seaport from its earliest settlement, by the eighteenth century Savannah became a wealthy city known for the grace and beauty of its antebellum homes, many located around the historic squares, and its shaded streets lined with trees draped with Spanish moss; later it would develop a distinctive Victorian residential district as well. During the Civil War, Savannah avoided destruction by General Sherman and his troops on their march to the sea when the Confederate garrison evacuated into South Carolina, and the city’s leaders negotiated with Sherman: his federal troops would occupy the city (headquartered in the well-known Greene-Meldrim House on Madison Square), and the civilian militia would surrender their arms. In 1864, General Sherman offered Savannah to President Lincoln as a “Christmas present.”

Savannah’s historic district, one of the largest such urban areas in the country, has been restored and enhanced through the efforts of the Historic Savannah Foundation and many individuals. Over five million people visit Savannah each year, concentrating particularly in the historic district and riverfront area, generating revenues nearing $600 million and supporting 16,000 jobs. The resort area of Hilton Head, South Carolina, is also nearby, providing an additional tourist draw to the area. One of the leading ports in the southeastern United States, Savannah is a commercial and industrial center: major industries include shipbuilding, lumber and woodworking, sugar refining, cottonseed-oil production, and the manufacture of paper, bags, chemicals, transportation equipment, and steel products. Hunter Army Air Field is located in the southern part of the city.

Contemporary Savannah has a (1995) population of 143,131 (showing a very small increase since 1980), and covers 62.6 square miles. Its residents are 51% African American, 47% white, and 2% other. The overall unemployment rate is 8.3%; 22.6% of the population lives below the poverty level; and 30% of the population has not completed high school.8 Savannah is the seat of Chatham County, which has about 220,000 residents.

The city has (by charter) a council-manager form of government, with a weak mayor and strong city manager, who is the chief executive. The City Council, consisting of the mayor and eight aldermen, appoints the city manager. Bureau heads for the city, including the chief of police, then serve at the pleasure of the city manager. Current City Manager Michael Brown has held the position since 1995, having served as Assistant City Manager under the previous City Manager, Arthur Mendonsa, from 1980-89. Savannah also has approximately 100 named neighborhood associations. Among the most active is the Downtown Neighborhood Association, in the historic district, but other associations meet throughout the city.

A Policing Legacy
The heritage of policing in Savannah extends as far back as the citizen militia that protected the town during colonial times, drilling on its grassy squares, and the later “Guard and Watch,” a system of peace-keeping nighttime patrols established by ordinance in 1796. By 1812, officers wore distinctive uniforms with brass buttons. “Midnight and it looks like rain” is often cited as a report bellowed by guards who were required to cry out the time and weather on the hour. In 1840, six city constables were hired, and in 1848, a marine police was organized as part of the Watch.

On the eve of the Civil War, Savannah was growing rapidly: several thousand new citizens had arrived, including migrants from foreign countries as well as the North. Describing Savannah at this time, Richard Haunton writes: “Locally-owned bondsmen, runaway slaves from surrounding counties, free Negroes, seamen, and Irish laborers congregated in Savannah’s outlying districts, where they engaged in various illicit activities and committed crimes against one another. Narrow streets, lanes, and alleys, as well as the absence of gas lighting in the fringe areas, complicated law enforcement.”9 Assault and battery, theft, public drunkenness, and control of slaves all taxed policing services. By 1854, the number of guards had risen to 100: yet during the day, the city was guarded only by five constables, the marshal, and several watchmen. Exasperation was building over the ineffectiveness of the watchmen who, according to a report in the Republican, in 1853, were “not very watchful, a statement which the Savannah Evening Journal thought overly generous.”10

In 1859, the dual system of night watchmen and day policemen was merged into a single organization with all policemen subject to day as well as night duty. The salary of privates, whether mounted or foot, was raised to $500 a year, and police were prohibited from engaging in other work. Lyde Goodwin was then elected the first Chief of the police force of Savannah, and “increased activity in the Police Court and . . . plaudits from governing officials in other cities attest to the fact that Savannah’s police department functioned more efficiently.”11 When the Civil War began, the guards began to carry muskets and again drilled in the town squares, on alert for northern troops.12

The modern Savannah Police Department consciously traces its roots to 1865, when General Robert Anderson, a West Point graduate and commissioned officer (who resigned from the Union army to serve in the Confederate army) became Chief of Police. Reorganizing the department, he created a new force of 116 men, mostly veterans from the Confederate and Union Armies, and served as chief until his death in 1888. During his tenure, rules and regulations were written for the Government of the City Police, and a “crude ambulance service was started in 1865.”13 Two police officers died—the first to be killed in the line of duty—in a riot between scalawags and opponents of General Ulysses S. Grant, during the national election campaign in 1868. (The story is told that Officer Read, buried gratuitously by the city because he had no family, was interred in burial plot number 911.) Mounted police appeared first in 1869. And in 1870, construction of the Savannah Police Department headquarters, still in use today at the intersection of Oglethorpe and Habersham streets, was completed at a cost of $28,000. The building is the longest continually utilized police headquarters in the country.

Frank McDermott, recognized as one of the most progressive of Savannah Police Chiefs, was appointed in 1895. McDermott initiated the practice of requiring pawnbrokers to make daily reports to the Department in order to expedite the tracing and recovery of stolen items, reduced the work day of police officers to eight hours, and drew attention to the need for more humane treatment of prisoners.14 During his tenure, which lasted until 1899, the Police Department operated with two patrol wagons, two horse-drawn ambulances, thirty-two horses altogether, and several bicycles. In 1917, the Department acquired its first motorcycles, and in 1921, eleven automobiles were added; yet horses continued to be used on patrol for many years following. From early on, officers worked out of two substations, as well as the central headquarters. In 1947, the Department hired nine African-American officers, who “broke the color bar.”

The Savannah Police Department today is a force of 41615 officers and 9116 civilian personnel. It is one of three policing agencies in Chatham County. The County Police Department is a full service law enforcement agency that operates outside the city, while the county Sheriff is elected, and presides over the county jail. SPD’s current chief is David Gellatly, who was appointed in 1980. The Chief began his career in law enforcement in 1960 as an officer in the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department. Before coming to Savannah, he held positions as chief in Addison, Illinois, Jackson, Missouri, and Lenexa, Kansas. Under his leadership, the Savannah Police Department became the 94th internationally accredited law enforcement agency in 1989; it was re-accredited in 1994. The Department’s progress in community and problem-oriented policing has been featured on CNN’s World Report and in numerous published articles, and it has been visited and observed by law enforcement officials from many countries. A number of SPD staff members have become accomplished teachers, trainers, and publishers on COP and problem-oriented policing.

Looking Back: Policing in Savannah during the 1970s and 80s

City Government, the Community, and the Police Department

The City Manager-Police Relationship
When you ask how community policing got its start in Savannah, virtually everyone mentions the name of Arthur A. Mendonsa—City Manager in Savannah from 1962 to 1995. From inside the Police Department and out, Mendonsa is credited with pushing for those very changes in the community, and in SPD, that led to the implementation of community policing. A forceful, progressive leader in city government, Mendonsa’s finger was on the pulse of the community; at the same time, he was key to the selection of leadership in the Police Department, and took an active role in its management, through several tumultuous decades in Savannah. Mendonsa, according to PERF’s 1995 report, “describes his input as ‘suggestions’ for planning by frequently asking the question, ‘What are we trying to accomplish?’”17 In fact, the half mile between the SPD Barracks and City Hall was—and remains—a well worn path, with most of the traveling done by the Chief.

During the early 1970s Chief Leo Ryan, who had risen through the ranks in SPD to become chief in 1964, presided over a policing organization similar to most reform departments in the country. Savannah was not the first department at this time to face the reality that its strategies were not effective in the face of the urban strife that spread in the 1960s. Officer misconduct over the use of force and serious racial tensions in the city and between the black community and the Police Department fueled Mendonsa’s growing sense that it was time for a change. In 1975, he brought in a new chief—David Epstein—to reorient the Department and try a new approach to addressing problems apparent in Savannah’s more troubled areas.

Epstein was a different type of chief, with a Ph.D. in Police Science and Administration from Michigan State University. Upon taking office he immediately had to deal with a corruption scandal in which more than a dozen top ranking officers, under investigation by the FBI and later indicted, left the Department. Epstein attempted to create a more “professional” department: he developed a new policy and procedures manual to replace one that had been handed down unchanged from the 1960s; he encouraged recruitment of officers with at least some college education, and brought talented people into the department from outside—for example, Major William Lyght (current head of the Patrol Bureau). Racial issues in the city were also a priority for the new chief: Epstein established a community relations office in which (current) Major Dan Reynolds, an acknowledged leader of COP in today’s Department, served. In addition to foot patrol, Chief Epstein began using a canine unit in the downtown area along River Street, and in other neighborhoods. In 1976, the Department created a Crime Prevention Unit, a tactical unit designed to suppress crime through high visibility, directed patrol activities and periodic special operations. It was the precursor to the Tactical Reaction and Prevention (TRAP) Unit that would be created in 1980. Also in 1976, a Crime Education Unit was created with grant funds to reduce victimization by working with the public in what were essentially crime prevention activities.

Eventually, the strong willed Epstein clashed with Mendonsa. In 1980, Chief Epstein left for the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, and the City Manager hired a new chief—David Gellatly. To facilitate the selection process, Mendonsa enlisted the help of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, which used an “Assessment Center” process for evaluating candidates.18 Gellatly was ranked as the top candidate, and Mendonsa went with this choice. When Chief Gellatly came on board, City Manager Mendonsa stressed the need to improve “customer service” and community relations. Gellatly responded. Over the next few years Savannah would see a dramatic reduction in the number of citizen complaints, especially those based upon slow response times to calls for service. In addition, the new chief set out to upgrade the professional standards of the Department, both by building a strong training curriculum that exceeded mandated minimums, and by pursuing accreditation. In 1989, SPD received its first accreditation, with then-Lieutenant Stephen Smith guiding the process through in only eighteen months.

During the 1980s, the City Manager implemented a strong analytically-based approach to managing all city departments. For example, he demanded that the city develop a thorough understanding of local crime problems, which impacted not only SPD but other departments as well. Most of SPD management contend, however, that Mendonsa was not dictatorial in terms of defining solutions to these problems; his reputation as a “micro-manager” stemmed more from his commitment to analysis and planning. A “stickler for analysis,” he rarely mandated specific strategies, and in fact allowed the Police Department considerable autonomy with regard to policing operations. Nevertheless, he would continue to oversee planning processes, including establishing goals and objectives related to analyses, and designing strategies to achieve the objectives.

Local Government Leadership in the Community
Although Savannah had a new chief of police in David Gellatly, it continued to face serious crime and related social problems into the 1980s. Racial tensions were not as acute as during the 1960s and early to mid-1970s, but the fear and disorder associated with crack cocaine in the mid-80s hit poor black neighborhoods especially hard. Along with crack came higher crime rates, and more violent crime. Neighborhoods such as Cuyler-Brownsville, the Victorian District, and the larger public housing developments (Hitch Village, Yamacraw Village, Fellwood Homes, and Garden Homes), already staggering from physical deterioration, lack of education and high unemployment, grew desperate. In several public housing projects taken over by criminals, emergency vehicles dared not answer calls without police escorts, and police would only enter with considerable backup.

City Manager Mendonsa saw all of these problems as a seamless cloth, with crime a symptom of many of the others. He believed, therefore, that the most effective response would integrate policing strategies with other broad-based efforts to address the pervasive economic and social problems—poor school performance, unemployment, meager job skills, single-parent families, physical disorder in the form of trash, abandoned buildings and substandard housing—plaguing these areas of Savannah. The city moved to address these issues with a comprehensive Neighborhood Services Program aimed at improving the quality of life in the city’s most distressed areas by working with residents to revitalize their neighborhoods, as opposed to simply providing services to them. Mendonsa himself told citizens directly that the city and Police Department could not do it alone: they would have to join in, and accept some of the responsibility. Showcase Savannah provided the opportunity.

Showcase Savannah

An important component of the Neighborhood Services Program, Showcase Savannah was funded by city, state and federal agencies, as well as private foundations. Led by the city through its Community Development Department, the program began in 1987-88 in two of the most seriously threatened neighborhoods—the Eastside neighborhood (Showcase I) and Cuyler-Brownsville (Showcase II). Mendonsa, an experienced planner before becoming City Manager, initiated the planning process through a series of “visioning” meetings with residents to identify priorities. He soon found that drug activity, crime, and infrastructure concerns rose to the top of the agenda; it proved harder to mobilize community members around issues like education and employment.19 Accordingly, Showcase Savannah focussed first on capital improvements, code enforcement, sanitation, and public safety. The city established minimum standards for street lighting and garbage collection; it encouraged citizens to identify properties that were below code; and police worked to locate and disrupt drug-dealing in particular locations. These efforts were undertaken through formal agreements between the city (including its various departments) and neighborhood associations. The Police Department, the Sanitation Department, citizens—everyone involved signed on: whereas the city might promise to repair sidewalks or playground equipment, or make loans to rehabilitate houses, residents would pledge cooperation in maintaining an active neighborhood watch and reporting information to the police, as well as cutting their grass and keeping up property. Written contracts incorporating these commitments were signed by Mendonsa and the president of the neighborhood association.

In 1990, the U.S. Conference of Mayors awarded Savannah a City Livability Award for the program—one of many awards for Savannah that Mendonsa’s work produced.20 “Showcase” became a model for the city’s ongoing efforts to develop and empower neighborhoods. By 1994, the program would expand to include twenty neighborhoods.

From early on SPD played a crucial role in Showcase Savannah, working with residents and the city to identify needs and priorities in the communities involved. Those officers most directly involved with the program were energized and enthusiastic: “this is a new approach, and we are not going to be blamed for all the problems that exist out here . . . there will be other people who are responsible, too.” Nevertheless, some of those officers involved in Showcase recall that because the Department was still organized according to a three-watch system, with captains responsible for different watches citywide and no overall geographical accountability, it was difficult for SPD to maintain consistency in working with the neighborhoods. Eventually the TRAP (Tactical Reaction and Prevention) Unit, an undercover unit operating outside patrol that concentrated on drugs and vice (and in addition served warrants and carried out other special work as needed), took over the organization of police activities for Showcase. TRAP was headed at the time by then-Lieutenant (today Major) Dan Reynolds, who coordinated activities between SPD and ongoing community development. In Showcase II, “residents placed the highest priority on drug sales on street corners and in vacant houses. The Police Department responded with saturation operations and the installation of ‘Police Drug Check Point’ signs” to put people on notice that the areas were targeted for enforcement—a tactic Reynolds had seen used in other departments. Although the drug problems were not entirely eliminated, they were substantially reduced.21

Other Community Initiatives
Local government and the police were not alone in their efforts to improve conditions in Savannah’s troubled neighborhoods during the late 1980s. Private citizens and leaders of business, charitable organizations, and social service agencies also pitched in, and in typical Savannah fashion, where civic responsibility is taken seriously. As one Savannahan expressed it,

. . . in this town when a colleague or someone calls you and says, “I’m trying to do this and so and I think I need your help,” it’s not acceptable to say, “I don’t think I can.” You’re expected to say, “Let me see what I can do.” And you may respond to a lesser or a greater degree, but it is a norm that we reach out to each other and try to work across a lot of lines . . . . This is a town more likely to work with each other than against each other.

The Youth Futures Authority

An important contributor to program development and collaborative initiatives in Savannah beginning in the late 1980s was (and still is) the Youth Futures Authority.22 The current director, Dr. Otis Johnson, was a member of the City Council and Professor of Social Work at Savannah State University at the time Youth Futures was created. Begun as a community collaborative in 1987-88 with a grant from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Youth Futures Authority sought to reduce the substantial numbers of teen pregnancies, school dropouts, and related high unemployment of youth in Savannah. City Manager Mendonsa played a significant role (as did Dr. Johnson) in convening the various actors—from both public and private sectors—who would come together in the planning process for applying for the grant.

The Youth Futures Authority operates in a number of ways: directly funding programs; seeking outside funds (local, state and national, both governmental and private) and then contracting for, funding, and even administering some programs directly; and also working with partners who redirect their own program activities into a plan overseen by the Authority. Since its inception, Youth Futures has carried out a series of initiatives in the form of programmatic interventions targeting youth at risk. Gradually its activities have moved from working with children in schools, to family-centered interventions, and more recently to “locating ourselves in a comprehensive way in the neighborhood.” As one of its most significant accomplishments, Youth Futures started the Family Resource Center, turning an abandoned high school building into a center where many sources of assistance for families would be located. The geographic area targeted for Weed and Seed was selected in part because the Center was set to open: today the Center serves as a “safe haven” for the area, and Youth Futures continues to receive Weed and Seed funds to administer programs there. A number of Youth Futures programs, such as Project Uhuru (see below), have involved direct collaboration with the Police Department.

Neighborhood Association Activity and the Historic Savannah Foundation

Savannah is a city of neighborhoods, and of formal squares which, as Mr. Larry Lee, President of the Historic Savannah Foundation (HSF) and a member of the Downtown Neighborhood Association, points out, serve architecturally and socially to draw people together. In 1993, there were ninety-eight named neighborhood associations in Savannah. In the downtown historic district, two organizations have been especially active: the Downtown Neighborhood Association, and the Historic Savannah Foundation.23 While the historic district is highly dependent upon tourism and commercial activity, it is surrounded—and many feel threatened—by poverty and crime. Residents and members of the powerful Downtown Neighborhood Association were among the earliest and strongest advocates in the city for an increase in police presence and were instrumental in creating the demand for a horse patrol. They recognized that the perception of safety was as important as actual safety for their neighborhoods to thrive.

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, with crime, violence, and street disorder growing, the Association became more active politically in an attempt to have the numbers of police assigned to the downtown area increased. The city’s response was that if the downtown/historic district got more police, other areas would get less. The Downtown Association began to realize then that to protect and advance its own interests, it would have to “buy into” the safety of the city as a whole. In 1990 the Association sponsored a series of forums with rallies and speakers to get to know communities, neighborhoods, and other associations throughout the city—a useful process at this time, since “neighborhood awareness” was growing. These meetings had an added benefit in helping to reduce separatism and increase subsequent interaction among different neighborhoods and racial groups in the city. The associations learned that they had to cooperate; each needed its own “spotlight” at times to advance its own interests; yet they were tied together through common interests as well. In Mr. Lee’s words, “sometimes resources have to go to another neighborhood for the good of the larger community.”

Conditions in Savannah’s neighborhoods and the historic district have also been improved through the efforts of the Historic Savannah Foundation, which works to preserve the beauty of traditional Savannah: it has restored nearly 2000 houses in the last four years, moving its activities gradually out of the historic district to the Beach Institute area, an historic black community on the eastern edge of the historic district, and to the Victorian District south of the historic district.24 HSF’s strategy has been to identify and attempt to stabilize a street—buying two or three key properties and restoring them in an effort to initiate a “chain reaction.” The properties are usually marketed to real estate agencies, and sales of other houses and even apartment buildings in the area ideally follow, as occurred on Jones and Taylor Streets. In this case, the city was buying and restoring houses at the southern edge of the Beach Institute area: as activity stepped up, the two areas blended together. A short-lived city program, Cops on the Block was a help to HSF in starting momentum on particular streets—for example, the 500 block of East Jones Street.25

One of the common interests of neighborhood associations and restoration efforts was in improved and different forms of police services. Many associations, especially the Downtown Association, wanted neighborhood cops—“the same ones all the time,” cops they could “get to know.” They also wanted foot patrol and horse patrol. According to Association members, the response they sought “happened” in 1990-91 when SPD moved toward implementing community policing. When neighborhood associations began asking police to come to their meetings, they came—Major Bill Lyght and Major Dan Reynolds frequently attended. SPD began talking about policing in zones, invited citizens to forums, and asked them to be part of advisory committees in various districts. In spite of racial tensions in some African-American neighborhoods, the associations generally welcomed SPD’s move toward greater involvement in communities and neighborhoods, and a proactive rather than reactive stance.

The 1980s: Reform Policing
Throughout the 1980s, when SPD continued to operate out of the old central headquarters in the historic downtown area of the city, the formal responsibilities of the Police Bureau as defined by the city remained constant: (1) Identifying criminal activities and offenders; (2) Reducing the opportunities for commission of crimes; (3) Expediting the safe and uninterrupted movement of persons and vehicles; (4) Maintaining order; and (5) Providing emergency and other police services to the public.26 But if its mission remained the same, the Department nevertheless expanded considerably through the decade. In 1980, SPD had 250 sworn personnel, 82 civilian employees, 73 vehicles (consisting mostly of marked and unmarked cars, with a small number of wagons), and a budget of $6,818,031; in 1985, SPD had grown to 283 sworn officers, 79 civilians, and a budget of $11,461,756. By 1990, sworn personnel had increased to 331, civilians to 105,27 vehicles to 175, and the budget to $16,774,555. No less significant were the technological changes that would occur: SPD started the decade with a manual card dispatching system, and cars with VHF Band Radios.

The 1991 Crime Study28 provides a snapshot of the Department at the end of the 1980s, before it decentralized and moved formally into community and problem-oriented policing. SPD was organized around the following divisions: Patrol; Special Operations; Investigations; and Management Services. Internal Affairs and Administration reported directly to the Chief. While there were some minor shifts in the location and composition of units (formerly, the main units had been Operations and Patrol, Investigations, Auxiliary and Technical Services, and Management), the overall structure remained essentially the same.29 Throughout the decade, Savannah PD’s operating strategy essentially followed the reform policing model, with a centralized management and operational structure, relying on preventive patrol and responding to calls for service as primary tactics. To carry out his role in providing the direction, coordination and planning of law enforcement activities for the city, Chief Gellatly ran a Department “involved in all of the state of the art programs.” The most significant tactical changes that he introduced included improved crime analysis, directed patrol, and the creation of specialized units.

SPD: Core Tactics and Activities during the 1980s

Patrol and Special Operations, and Criminal Investigations

Patrol and Special Operations, and Investigations, operated functionally rather than geographically: each was headed by a major. The Patrol Division had primary call response duties, providing emergency and non-emergency assistance through responding to calls for service. It also carried out general law enforcement and order maintenance activities. Special Operations contained TRAP, Traffic Patrol, Horse Patrol, Communications, and starting in 1990, the Crime Prevention Unit. Investigations was a centralized operation conducting services related to the identification, apprehension and prosecution of criminal offenders, and assisted the District Attorney’s Office in case preparation for prosecution.

Patrol operated through a system of watches, with a captain responsible citywide for each eight-hour watch (first shift 12am-8am; second shift 8am-4pm; third shift 4pm-midnight). The first and second shifts rotated every thirty days, while the third shift remained constant. Beats were configured on the basis of “equitable distribution of calls for service” with geographic barriers “taken into consideration.” The first and second shifts had 24 beats each, while the third shift had 30 beats. Beats were combined into four zones: Zone I on the northwest side of the city; Zone II in north central Savannah; Zone III on the east side; and Zone IV in the large southern portion of the city. In 1985, largely because of parking congestion downtown, patrol officers working in Zones 1, 2 and 3 began attending roll call at McAlpin Square, a centrally located shopping center, while those in the 4th Zone went out to a city lot in the southern area of town.

Overall, during the 1980s patrol was largely incident driven, although 911 was not implemented until 1986. Intermittent foot patrol operated in the downtown tourist and commercial area, especially around River Street (Zone 2). SPD did make an effort to supplement its call-driven patrol units with the deployment of tactical units to prevent crime. Directed patrol was conducted at locations and times characterized by a higher likelihood of crime. More specific assignments for field patrols were a natural outgrowth of the Kansas City Preventive Patrol Experiment that discredited random routine patrol. Since Chief Gellatly had started his career in Kansas City, and continued it not far from there, he was familiar with these findings and their implications. In spite of the continuing debate over the findings, SPD recognized that targeting resources at known “hot spots” made good sense. During the first half of the decade, the Tactical Reaction and Prevention (TRAP) Unit (created in 1980) responded geographically and temporally to the new crime trends, and took actions to reduce the likelihood that specific types of crime would recur. Although drug enforcement became its major focus in the late 1980s, TRAP provided a flexible source of labor that could be mobilized to work on a different mission from week to week, depending upon the current crime situation. SPD saw this specialized Unit as providing a more proactive response to crime. Nevertheless, responding to calls for service and administrative duties were the top priorities of the Department during the 1980s, with preventive patrol (including proactive patrol at the “initiated discretion of the officer in the field, and also including directed patrol and problem-solving”) the most variable and “often only thought of as the time left over after calls for service have been responded to and administrative tasks completed.”30

Support Services

Management Services, and Auxiliary and Technical Services, together provided administrative, technical, and logistical support to SPD’s other divisions through budgetary management, research services, crime analysis, personnel recruitment, training, records management, vehicle services, and supply management. The 1980s held in store changes in technology, communications, and the ability of the Department to store, access, and manipulate data that would have a significant impact on its capacity for responding to and preventing crime.

SPD views an improvement in the use of crime data to identify and respond to crime problems as one of the most significant changes during the 1980s. While policing was still primarily reactionary, computers began to provide an improved capacity for tracking trends and analyzing patterns. While detectives had always sought ways to link cases through modus operandi, and to create explanations for crime trends, systematic crime analysis was lacking. Analyzing incidents by hand was time consuming and provided little return for the investment. Although initially conducted on mainframes, by the late 1970s and early 1980s computerization began to have a noticeable positive effect on patrol operations: for the first time, deployment could be based on facts rather than generalized experience. For example, patrol supervisors knew that “62.7 percent of street robberies occurred from 2100 hours to 0100 hours, and that Beat 6 in Zone 1 had a 31.3 percent of the Zone’s total.” These basic data were not produced prior to computerization. By the mid-1980s, the geographic pattern of crimes could be displayed using computer-generated maps from a geographic information system (GIS).

When Gellatly arrived in 1980s, one employee held the position of “analyst,” but in fact little actual analysis had been undertaken. In the early 1980s, Mendonsa approved funding for three additional crime analysts and a Planning and Research Director. With the hiring of Michael Donahue, a Ph.D. in Social Science from Michigan State University, as the first Director, the analytical capabilities Mendonsa sought became a real possibility. However, the quality of analysis reached a plateau by 1990: data were stored on a mainframe and were limited in scope. The limitations of this system became apparent to Mendonsa during the Crime Study, and a computer upgrade to an integrated Computer Aided Dispatch/Records Management System (CAD/RMS) was recommended as part of the 1991 Comprehensive Community Crime Control Strategy.

Management: Decision-Making and Control
In 1983, an Operations Management Study of SPD was undertaken by IACP.31 Implicit in the approach underlying the study, and its recommendations, were an acceptance of classic command and control, reform model policing: the organizational structure and functions of the police department were built around delivering policing services through preventive patrol and rapid response to calls for service. Police beats were to be constructed and officers assigned to them using mathematical algorithms based on weightings of serious crime and response time needs, without any reference to neighborhood shape or boundaries, or neighborhood priorities. Management, in this model, was to be carried out through a centralized bureaucracy, and officers would be controlled through traditional bureaucratic means, including direct oversight and application of extensive rules and regulations. The recommendations were intended to keep SPD a “reform” department: no attention was paid to managing discretion, empowering officers, or decentralizing decision making.

The model did not suit SPD’s needs as identified by the Department itself (in particular, Director of Research and Development Donahue) and City Manager Mendonsa—even with the report’s admonitions about the need for Savannah police to improve their community relations efforts. In effect, SPD rejected the IACP study. By later in the decade, Chief Gellatly and his staff were beginning to move well beyond the kind of policing proposed in the IACP model, collaborating in and developing new initiatives in the community that ultimately would demand internal management change as well.

Pushing the Limits: New Programs –Moving Toward Community Policing
By 1987-88, under Chief Gellatly’s leadership, the Department was clearly grappling with growing problems in the community, and searching for new ways of responding to them. It was at this time, during the late 1980s, that the seeds of community policing were sown in Savannah as Chief Gellatly and the Police Department undertook several new initiatives. The Department and its personnel still “view[ed] themselves as having a very discrete responsibility, and . . . those other problems weren’t our business.” Increasingly, however, “although the primary role [was] law enforcement . . . we [had] to have the cooperation of the community.” The implementation of the Showcase program in 1987 helped to demonstrate clearly that crime problems were interwoven with other problems that neighborhoods were facing. The concept of collaboration with residents and other city departments began to take hold. This was a time to test out new ideas and activities, some of which were gaining currency around the country under the aegis of “community policing” and “problem solving.”

Many of these ideas came into the Department through then-Captain (today Major) Dan Reynolds, an accepted “intellectual leader” in SPD, referred to by Chief Gellatly and others as the “guru” of community-oriented policing. Reynolds has always been an avid reader of current law enforcement literature: more than any other single individual, he has kept the Department in touch with national and international developments. The importance of order maintenance and problem-oriented policing “grabbed” Reynolds’ attention during the late 1980s: he would enthusiastically promote these ideas, and the literature exploring and testing them—the work of Wilson and Kelling, Skolnick and Bayley, Eck and Spelman, Sparrow, Moore and Kennedy, Trojanowicz and Bucqueroux.32 This literature made a significant impact on the Department, with Reynolds serving as the conduit.

From 1987-1990, these new ideas circulating in policing nationally were translated by SPD locally into a number of new programs and activities: police officers began working out of decentralized mini-stations, engaging in problem solving, patrolling on horse and bicycle, and generally paying more attention to quality of life issues while thinking about crime prevention and suppression, as well as apprehension of offenders. Although the basic structure and functions of the Police Department did not change, many of these early efforts and the units created to carry them out would be incorporated into the new design of the Department when it was formally reorganized in 1991.

Mini-Stations in Public Housing

In 1986, Major Moore (CIB), Captain Reynolds, and Sgt. (now Alderman) David Jones met with representatives of the Savannah Public Housing Authority to discuss problems related to police services in public housing. A suggestion was made to open a police mini-station in Hitch Village. The mini-station concept was borrowed from the Detroit experience described in Skolnick and Bayley’s New Blue Line (1986). The Housing Authority agreed to support the program by providing office space or an apartment. The Police Department assigned two officers to staff the program, placing it under Special Operations. In 1987 Captain Reynolds and Officer Afibia visited Detroit, to observe its mini-station operations and speak with Inspector Larry Holland, the former mini-station commander. The information and experience gained from the Detroit visit were used to develop SPD’s mini-station operation.

The mini-station concept was developed in part as an attempt to address strained relations between residents and police in Savannah. Captain Willie Lovett, who now commands Precinct 2, recalls that when an ambulance or the Fire Department were called to the project areas, “even though they were there to help people, they threw rocks and eggs at them, and they’d have to have a police escort to go into the projects to do anything, or to help someone.” Criminal elements had taken control of many areas in the projects: police could enter or respond to calls only with back-up. Chief Gellatly notes too that

the police weren’t thrilled: we had to devise schemes to make sure that the beat officers went through there . . . . It was a horrible place to live because the quality of life was bad. Our public housing was built around World War II, and there was no insulation in there . . . at three o’clock in the morning, bedrooms are still boiling hot, so you had a lot of young people out wandering around all night, and they could not get jobs . . . up to 40% of them were high school dropouts . . . . So we decided . . . not just to go into public housing . . . but to devise a workbook.

The first mini-station was in Hitch Village, adjacent to the eastern edge of Savannah’s downtown historic district: because of its success, Yamacraw Village, Fellwood Homes, and Garden Homes soon followed. Project Shield, a federal grant, supported an increase in the number of mini-stations with a focus on drug enforcement and prevention. Usually the stations were situated in an apartment unit in the housing project—provided to the Department for $1 a year by the Housing Authority of Savannah. Other costs were minor: utilities, and a small amount of furniture. Thus when the grant expired in 1993, the Department was able to continue staffing and operating the stations.

When the mini-stations were created, two officers were initially assigned to each. Later, in order to enhance accountability and give a greater sense of ownership, SPD reduced the assignment to one officer per station. Many of the original mini-station officers went in because they loved working with kids, and there was never a problem finding officers who wanted to get involved. Again, Chief Gellatly recalls

. . . we had to throw out a lot of myths—you know, myth number one, you can only use black officers—and you sure can’t have a female officer, because she could not succeed. Over the years, why we’ve done all of those things—we’ve had white officers and females in there, and there really is not any difference in the success rate as it relates to gender or race—it has more to do with what’s in their heart and what’s in their head.

The officer’s mission was to provide a police presence in the area that would allow for the development of positive relationships with local residents, particularly children and the elderly, and prevent potential problems. But officers assigned to mini-stations did a lot more: seeing uncut grass and deteriorating buildings, they called city departments to get them taken care of. They planted bushes on Saturday mornings. They sometimes kept the station office open in evenings, when young people were out and around. They checked on elderly residents who lived alone—knocking on the doors of those without phones twice a week to make certain they weren’t locked into hot apartments where they might suffocate from the heat, bringing in food occasionally, or doing small errands. Officers started boy and girl scout troops, and contacted social service agencies where they saw a need. One officer cooked a Thanksgiving dinner for residents who didn’t qualify for public assistance.

Change was gradual: once individual officers were in the mini-stations, project residents began to relate to SPD less as an alien force coming in from the outside. Areas had “their” officers, who became in many cases, their advocates, and some officers stayed for years. Even youth who were sometimes arrested by their mini-station officer developed a sense of respect for the officer, and realized that s/he was just doing the job. Between 1989 and 1996, violent crime fell by 64.3% in Hitch Village, 76.7% in Yamacraw Village, 50.0% in Fellwood Homes, and 52.8% in Garden Homes. The mini-stations are widely regarded as the first step in SPD turning its relationship around with residents in the housing projects. Now when bike officers enter a project, residents wave, call to them, and at times have stood by to guard bicycles while officers were chasing a suspect.

One mini-station was established outside of public housing—the Broughton Street mini-station was located in vacant space on the historic retail strip in the downtown. Like many U.S. cities, Savannah’s old downtown retail area decayed with the advent of enclosed, air-conditioned suburban shopping malls. One by one, department stores and other establishments closed on Broughton Street to relocate in malls and strip shopping centers. By 1986, Broughton Street had reached a low point, with over 60% of its storefronts vacant. The city mounted an aggressive campaign to revitalize the street: an Urban Renewal Plan was followed by loan subsidies and grants to property owners, and in 1989 a police mini-station was set up to show police presence and encourage further investment. Gradual improvements and increasing demand for retail space led SPD to conclude that the mini-station was no longer necessary. In 1991, it gave way to a rent-paying business. Unlike the Broughton Street mini-station, all four public housing mini-stations remain open.

Horse and Bicycle Patrol

Horse Patrol began in 1987 in the downtown area, projecting a highly visible police presence, one that portrayed officers as friendly and facilitated contacts with the public. On a typical day Horse Patrol officers patrol parks and squares downtown. This type of patrol proved popular enough with tourists and residents alike that it has been continued ever since. Currently, five officers are assigned to the Horse Patrol Unit. Bicycle patrol was also tried in the late 1980s in the downtown commercial areas of the city. Responses from merchants were especially favorable, and in 1990, a permanent Police Bicycle Patrol Unit was introduced. A high visibility unit, bike patrol officers were responsible for suppressing crime and maintaining order—especially important to workers who feared street robberies, and being accosted by aggressive panhandlers. Bike officers were freed from responding to calls for service on a regular basis, enabling their attention to be directed toward problem solving.

Problem Solving

SPD first began to experiment with problem solving in 1987-88, when officers initiated several special projects around the city. Corporal Madeline Pinkney took on a bar located at the intersection of Lathrop Avenue and Bay Street: the bar and immediate area were generating numerous calls for service involving incidents such as illegal alcohol sales, fights, disorderly conduct, shootings, and even a homicide. This was the first time SPD took the initiative in going before the City Council, and closing a bar down. A second project was conducted by Corporal William Gwyn: a burned-out, abandoned house in the Cuyler-Brownsville community was being used by drug dealers. SPD was able to have the structure demolished. Corporal Kenneth Porter identified a veteran with severe psychological problems who had been arrested several times for disorderly conduct, but was continuing to threaten people in a neighborhood. In trying to learn which doctor was treating the man, Porter discovered that in fact he was being seen by two physicians, neither of whom knew about the other. Working together, the two were able to have their patient committed to an institution.

Nuisance Abatement

In 1990 the city began to implement a Nuisance Property Abatement Program, following passage by the City Council of nuisance abatement legislation in 1989. The ordinance gave the city the authority to demolish two private structures when repair costs equaled or exceeded current values. Working closely with city code inspectors, SPD officers helped target 140 structures—abandoned and unsecured buildings that housed squatters and drug dealers, posed fire and safety hazards, and contributed to a lowering of property values. SPD officers reported receiving good cooperation from city code inspectors in targeting problem properties.

Crime Prevention Officers

In 1990, the Crime Prevention Unit was created. Crime Prevention Officers (some of whom are still serving in this capacity) were assigned to work with residents and businesses throughout the city to prevent victimization. Relieved of patrol duties, the CPOs started programs for children, organized bike rodeos, attended neighborhood meetings, set up neighborhood watches, met with and surveyed citizens to learn their concerns, and cooperated on citywide programs. Although their activities have increased over time, CPOs continue to operate today.

One crime prevention officer describes the difference in roles between beat officers and crime prevention officers:

…being a beat officer, you know, you’re out there, you take the calls you’re given, you answer those calls, you write them up, and you go to the next calls. Here, you have a lot of people calling you in reference to neighbors right within their block, they want to complain, and you have to deal with how you can get them together and discuss the neighborhood interests . . . you are more of a mediator. You have people tell you things in confidence . . . you sometimes take those thoughts home and try and solve them and go back the next day with some answers.

CPOs handle a wide variety of problems, at times performing functions that may overlap those of other officers, including detectives:

I discovered a problem in one neighborhood with burglaries, from the pin map. I pulled up all the reports, and found out that there was a plumber and his helper, going around, working on some of these houses. They go in, and the plumber (from the reports I can see) is responsible: he goes back and pries open the sliding glass door . . . well you’ve got 50 something officers out here, and not everyone has a chance to read those reports—but I can put the information on the computer (time, place, CRN, method of entry, you know, and start comparing), and I’ll give them suspect information and make lists for everybody.

Crime prevention officers today are expected to meet with all victims of commercial burglary to conduct a security survey designed to identify measures for reducing the risk of repeat victimization—known as “target hardening.”33 One CPO prepares a monthly newsletter, “Crime Prevention News.”

Crime prevention officers report that they quickly learn to tailor their approach to particular neighborhoods and groups of citizens: for example, members of some community groups share spiritual and emotional bonds; others are strictly business, proceeding by Robert’s Rules of Order. Although some officers reportedly miss the “excitement” of being out on patrol as beat officers (a few came in from previous positions in mini-stations), virtually all gain great satisfaction from their work. Most of it comes from having the time to spend with individuals who need help, and the ability to “do something:”

…We had this kid who came here a month ago from Texas. He just wanted to come to a party, and the party is over, and he lost his wallet that he had his money in, and his i.d. His mother is deceased . . . and he didn’t have anyone to turn to. He had been here too long to qualify for Travelers’ Aid. So I helped him to seek work that paid him on a day to day basis, and he was able to work for a short time and get paid.

Summing Upthe 1980s
During the late 1980s and into 1990, the city and SPD both continued their efforts to build partnerships with community residents as a key element in improving the quality of life in individual neighborhoods. Momentum was clearly building in the city, and in the Police Department. SPD itself began developing capacities for crime prevention and problem solving, taking ideas from around the country and testing them in special programs. Inadequate response to calls for service concerned both City Manager Mendonsa and SPD: Mendonsa sent Assistant City Manager Michael Brown, Chief Gellatly, and Research and Planning Director Mike Donahue to Garden City, California, to look at the Department’s Differential Police Response system. Bill Lyght and Dan Reynolds similarly made trips to Toledo and other locations to examine similar systems.

Nevertheless, SPD’s overall strategy continued to follow the reform model of policing until early in the 1990s, when Chief Gellatly and his majors developed a blueprint for change as part of the Crime Control Strategy.

Developing A New Vision for Policing during the 1990s

The Push for Change
In spite of the many initiatives undertaken by the city, private citizens and police in specific neighborhoods, Savannah entered the 1990s in a growing sense of turmoil. A rapid and significant increase in violent crime was the final straw. Homicides increased dramatically, from 35 in 1990 to 59 in 1991—“the year that every week you woke to a new murder in the newspaper,” when the Ricky Jivens drug gang stepped up activities. The media made crime a major focus, while citizens themselves began to organize in an attempt to influence the city and Police Department’s priorities and actions regarding crime.34 While some neighborhoods (some say the more affluent, white neighborhoods) were more politically connected and able to tap into the political process and get their issues resolves, “the list dropped off pretty quickly in terms of neighborhoods that really had a capacity to access the system.” In particular, the self-appointed Citizens’ Crime Commission became a highly vocal critic of the incumbent administration, frequently holding press conferences and offering its own recommendations as to what action should be taken by the police. Debates raged over whether the mayor, city manager and police department “just didn’t get it, and were not organized in a manner that would facilitate community involvement and problem-solving to address crime.” The print and electronic media were more than happy to provide significant coverage of these debates. It was a heated prelude to the 1991 election.

In retrospect, many contend that Savannah’s Mayor Rousakis—fighting for re-election after 28 years in office and challenged by outsider Susan Weiner, a Republican from New York City—lost because of the public perception that crime was out of control. The City Council was largely replaced in the election as well. City Manager Mendonsa and City Attorney James Blackburn were both publicly threatened with replacement by Mayor-elect Weiner. As it turned out, Blackburn is still City Attorney, and Mendonsa survived for several years: before leaving office in 1995 he would see the city through dramatic changes that would emanate from the Comprehensive Crime Control Strategy.

The Comprehensive Community Crime Control Strategy
In spite of the pressure generated by electoral politics for local government and the police to respond to the worsening crime situation in Savannah in the late 1980s and early 1990s, City Manager Mendonsa’s actions in pushing through the study and developing the overall strategy and recommendations that made up the Comprehensive Community Crime Control Strategy are still recognized by many Savannahans as a notable positive achievement. Data for the Crime Control Strategy were collected in 1990-91 by a study team put together and headed by Mendonsa. Major William Lyght and several other representatives from SPD were part of the team (as were representatives of a number of city departments) from its beginning—involved in analyzing the data as they were collected. George Padgett, a crime analyst for SPD, was responsible for data collection, and Brian Renner, then a management analyst in the Research and Budget Department for the city, was primarily responsible for organizing and writing the report.

The study team sought first to document the distribution and composition of crime and related social and physical characteristics among specific neighborhoods and service areas in Savannah. Specifically, data showed that neighborhoods with the highest concentrations of housing, structural fire incidents, unmaintained residential lots, deteriorated commercial structures, overgrown vacant lots, litter and debris, and derelict vehicles correspondingly had the highest incidence of crime and disorder. These same areas also were characterized by particular social disorders: high rates of teen pregnancy and motherhood, child abuse and neglect, juvenile unrest, drug abuse, female-headed households with children, domestic disturbances, and poverty.35 Maps were prepared to show concentrations of these problems. Twelve geographical study areas, A through L, were created, and the study measured discrete problems for each—later to be called “service areas.” Crime and disorder, environmental decay, and many of the negative social conditions were heavily clustered in Service Area C, just to the south of the downtown waterfront area.

Once these data were available for analysis, the study team turned to an examination of current responses by SPD and the city, and to developing recommendations for improving the delivery of services. As part of this process, several public hearings were held to generate public input concerning police strategies. Residents made it clear that they wanted more police visibility, and their comments suggested implicitly that they also sought increased contact with police as well.

Identifying Needed Changes in SPD’s Policing Strategy
In the Crime Control Strategy, six primary problems were identified in the delivery of police services:

First, departmental organization and patrol strategies resulted in the lack of geographic accountability: officers were not consistently assigned or deployed to the same areas; and captains supervised an eight hour shift and not necessarily an area, so no single individual was accountable for a particular problem. Furthermore, beat and zone boundaries did not correspond to the geographic distribution of known crime problems.

Second, an unequal distribution of patrol time due to current allocations of personnel by shift did not permit officers sufficient time to engage in preventive patrol or problem solving where they were most needed. In particular, because of the higher number of calls for service, the third shift (4pm-midnight) accounted for 48.7% of crimes, yet officers on the shift spent only 24% of available patrol time on preventive patrol. Correspondingly, the midnight-8am shift accounted for only 26.8% of crimes, yet shift officers spent more than 53% of patrol time on preventive patrol.

Third, data pointed to the need for better interaction between officers and residents: “Research consistently shows a strong relationship between levels of police-citizen interaction and citizen satisfaction with police services. The unequal distribution of patrol time in Savannah shows that officers spend a disproportionate amount on answering calls for service leaving little time for the kinds of activities that would enhance positive interaction....”36 The lack of police-citizen interaction and cooperation appeared to limit joint problem-solving efforts in the community, as well as the effectiveness of police in providing services to neighborhoods that depended upon obtaining information and cooperation from citizens. Most striking, the absence of non-emergency contact with police caused citizens to distrust them.

Fourth, although responding to calls for service was identified as the most “essential service” provided by patrol officers, it was essentially a reactive, incident-oriented strategy that (along with making arrests and solving cases) dominated police services, yet precluded problem solving and preventing crime. As a result, study analysts thought it could have little impact on crime.

Fifth, the police response system was found to be inadequate and wasteful in the sense that too many officers were tied up on calls that were not emergencies and that could have been delayed or handled by telephone. Officers were dispatched immediately to each call received, even though only 19 percent were classified as emergencies requiring rapid response. No prioritizing or managing of the service workload occurred. As a result, not only were proactive activities such as problem solving and crime prevention slighted, but the Department’s capacity for quickly and adequately responding to true emergencies was reduced.

Finally, the study identified an inadequate data management system that hampered the detailed analysis of crime and deployment conditions needed for effective patrol management. Much valuable information was not readily available in computerized format and could not be produced in a timely fashion—including the distribution of crimes and calls for service by zone, service area and time of day; response times by these same categories; patrol time spent on various activities; numbers of repeat calls to the same address; levels of police-citizen interaction; and crime prevention measures undertaken. Problems in data management arose in part out of the incompatibility between the Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system, and the Records Management System (RMS).

Recommendations for A New Strategy
Based upon these findings, the study team set out specific recommendations for SPD and the city to address more effectively the problems occurring in each service area. But it was Chief Gellatly and his command staff who actually formulated the recommended policing initiatives. Decentralization, and the transformation of the Department to community-oriented policing, were proposed by the Chief and this group.

Early on, Chief Gellatly appointed Major William Lyght, a former Lieutenant Colonel in the military with considerable experience in logistical planning, to lead SPD’s representation on the study committee and to oversee planning and implementation of the transition in policing that would follow. The Chief and the four majors would meet periodically with the study team in order to be briefed, and to provide input into the progress of the study. Major Lyght formulated the proposal for the precinct system, and both the Chief and Major Lyght became strong proponents of decentralization. Major Dan Reynolds introduced community policing and problem-solving perspectives: familiar with the literature on police trends and other departments around the country, he was the architect of plans for developing community policing in Savannah. Michael Donahue, who had been at SPD during the mid-1980s, returned as Director of Planning and Research in 1991, writing some sections of the study and working with Major Lyght to write the actual implementation plans.

Specifically, the policing strategy set out in the Crime Control Strategy involved six policing goals (corresponding to the problems identified in current deployment practices): (1) decentralizing service delivery and devolving command accountability to four zones;37 (2) deploying personnel among and within zones by calls for service as well as officer time required for carrying out preventive patrol, citizen participation, and other activities; (3) developing and implementing community-oriented policing (COP) and (4) problem-oriented policing (POP); (5) setting up a differential police response system; and (6) improving analytical capabilities and data management by developing an integrated CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch)/RMS (Records Management System) capacity. The city committed itself to underwriting these changes financially: $2.6 million was budgeted for the Department to fund 34 new sworn positions, vehicles, equipment, and five telephone report-takers.38

But the city was prepared to do even more: given the lack of any overarching body that could coordinate and plan strategies for dealing with violent crime, the Crime Control Strategy proposed the creation of a Crime Control Collaborative, a body to be officially authorized and funded by the City Council (and to report to it) that would integrate and oversee multi-disciplinary efforts to control and reduce crime. The Crime Collaborative would include the chief executive officers or other high-ranking representatives of all area criminal justice agencies (the police chief, judges, prosecutors, corrections, parole, probation, court administrators), city service agencies, social service agencies, local health organizations, the public school system, state and local labor and employment authorities, private business, neighborhood groups, and several private organizations such as churches and youth service clubs.39 The Collaborative’s mission would be to identify and analyze crime problems and conditions giving rise to crime, and to provide leadership in developing programs and strategies to address the problems.

For local government to carry out its role in improving socio-economic and environmental conditions that appeared to be correlated with crime throughout the city, the Crime Control Strategy also proposed the creation of Neighborhood Service Centers in each of the twelve Service Areas, from which to coordinate service delivery. Based upon the Savannah Showcase model, neighborhood leadership and advisory groups would be sought. The city would also create the position of Community Service Coordinator, who would coordinate service delivery in those service areas having substantial crime and socio-economic problems, and would work with police zone captains in these areas.

The Executive Summary and first full version of the Crime Control Strategy, setting forth all the above points in much greater detail, were released to the public in a full press conference on June 20, 1991. The final draft, with few significant changes, came out in August. In response, many citizens focused on the number of new police officers who would be on the streets—assuming that “more is better”—without paying much attention to management style and philosophy. (In fact, the study recommended 34 officers, while the Citizens Crime Commission had publicly demanded 100 new officers.) The media’s reaction to the sections on COP and POP was muted: there was little characterization of these proposals in a positive or negative light. What did garner attention was Area C—where much of the crime and many of the worst social conditions were concentrated—and the city’s plan to target services and policing efforts there.40 As Major Lyght put it at the press briefing: “Area C ranks first out of the twelve areas in nearly every category of data documenting bad things.” Never before had such rich data on these negative conditions been publicly displayed, and never before had a specific geographical area been targeted so vigorously.41

For SPD, the release of the Strategy’s plan, and actually embarking on it, were two distinct steps. The internal decision to decentralize SPD operations had been made by May 1991, the result of a discussion and consultation process involving Chief Gellatly, SPD’s four majors, and his captains. Yet even when the Crime Control Strategy itself was released, it was not clear when the changeover in policing operations would actually occur.

DO SOMETHING! Jumpstarting Community Policing
The summer of 1991 was a tumultuous period in Savannah. In many respects, SPD was caught in the middle: because of the highly charged political campaign, not only the mayor, but Mendonsa himself, was vulnerable. With both having been in office for a over twenty years, they were easy targets to blame for the rising crime rates and other problems in the city. Republican mayoral challenger Susan Weiner led the finger pointing. With the City Manager having problems and under fire, SPD tried to absorb the heat. Chief Gellatly explains, “we took full accountability. Crime is our fault. We are having the crime because the police have failed . . . . We were looking for things—we needed a radical change, even though we weren’t a backward police department . . . .” Nevertheless, Mendonsa himself tried to focus attention not on the Police Department, but on crime as a symptom of underlying social and environmental problems in the city’s neighborhoods. He stressed the need for radical changes in the way social problems were to be addressed, and implied that city government itself was not to blame for current conditions.

As the final draft of the Crime Study was still being prepared, and an implementation plan was being formulated, election day was approaching. Finally, late in August, with the campaign in full swing and looking decidedly unpromising, Mendonsa told the Chief to “Do something!” That ‘something’ meant that Gellatly and his top supervisors had to move—Mendonsa was prepared to wait no longer. As Chief Gellatly remembers it, “There was a political dilemma, and it was time for change—do something. So I did do something.... We thought that community policing—we would adopt that; but we’d do something radically different—we’ll do it citywide. In other words, we’ll succeed big or fail big.” Although Mike Donahue, the Chief, and several other top SPD managers argued for a delay until nearer to the end of the year, Mendonsa gave SPD only a month.

What took place in that one month was a near total reorganization of the Savannah Police Department, based upon implementation plans written by Michael Donahue at SPD. Many of the immediate challenges were logistic: four precincts were to be created, grouping together various service areas so that crime problems would be more manageable. This meant establishing four stations: furnishing each, moving equipment and personnel to the sites, and preparing for patrol activities to be deployed from the stations. “Now to go from a centralized operation to decentralization, knowing you have to get facilities . . . the money to lease some of the facilities was a monumental task . . . . we had to buy more cars . . . because you had to separate, to get the support staff into those locations. The furniture, the FAX machine, which was key. Some kind of communication system—we had to have four of everything now, instead of one.” Those who planned, oversaw, and implemented the changes recall little, if any, resistance at the time, for “the momentum was so great that no one could stand in the way.” In Major Bill Lyght’s words, “Everybody worked at it. The night when we had to move the cars to the other places and people had to pick up their cars, even that went smoothly. It was one of the smoothest operations I’ve ever seen.”

With the “flip of a switch,” on October 1, 1991, SPD formally launched its new initiatives, thereby starting the process of addressing the policing goals set out in the Crime Strategy. To the public, and the media, this event, with police visibly moving out into specific neighborhoods, was far more significant than the release of the Crime Control Strategy, or promises of COP or POP: they were cautiously optimistic.

The New Strategy: First Moves
Whatever the residents of Savannah thought about decentralization, SPD had a broader vision in mind. Community-Oriented Policing (COP) would be the answer to the need for greater interaction between residents and patrol officers identified in the study, and would provide the underlying philosophy for all the changes being implemented in the Department. Although many of the new activities initiated during the late 1980s could be characterized as a move toward COP, there was now an officially adopted philosophy designed to be operational Department-wide. COP placed importance on police working closely with the community, removing “the barriers that have traditionally existed between law enforcement and the public.”42 Proactive Problem-Oriented Policing (POP) was the dominant strategy that SPD would implement under COP, to improve police effectiveness. The first steps taken to implement them were these:

Decentralization and Deployment: To address the lack of geographic accountability, each of SPD’s four captains would head one of the four newly created precincts, accepting responsibility and accountability for police activities in that area around the clock. The basic assumption of this reorganization was that communities had different problems, and policing priorities should respond. The new deployment concept was therefore “geographic consolidation around problem areas to ensure better coordination and accountability.”43 Patrol activities would be delivered from four precinct stations, and each captain would be given authority to schedule and deploy personnel in light of local needs within the precinct. The goal would be to keep patrol officers assigned to the same beats as much as possible, and 40% of officer time was to be available for preventive patrol.

Tactical Changes: Unequal distribution of patrol time would be remedied by distributing personnel to service areas and zones on the basis of calls for service, with additional time for preventive patrol, citizen participation, and other activities. Officers would be permanently assigned to a service area, and scheduled so that approximately 40% of time was available for preventive patrol, 40% for answering calls for service, and 20% for administrative tasks. Preventive patrol would be integrated with, and would incorporate, problem-solving activities by officers. Given current levels of calls for service (194,287 answered in 1990, consuming an average of 34.96 minutes per call), to achieve these goals officers were re-allocated among service areas and zones. In addition, one captain, two lieutenants, seven sergeants, and one crime prevention officer were to be deployed to each zone.

Differential Response to Calls for Service: Of the 194,287 calls for service received by SPD in 1990, only 36,803 (18.9%) were real emergencies. A differential police response system would help to resolve the problem of inadequate police response, as well as allow patrol officers additional time for proactive problem solving. The Department proposed to establish a three-tiered system of response priorities: emergency; immediate; and delayed (routine). A telephone reporting unit was also established to handle many reports by phone (including lost property, missing person, or telephone threat calls). SPD launched a campaign to explain to citizens how telephone reporting could keep more officers available for emergency responses and proactive patrol. By 1993, the PERF report on SPD noted that “the telephone reporting unit was handling between 9 and 17 percent of calls for service.”44

Data Management Improvements: Finally, as a first step to improving analytical capabilities, the Department hired a planning and research director to oversee and develop better data management efforts, and immediately began developing an implementation plan to address the larger problem of CAD/RMS incompatibility.

The Violent Crimes Task Force
In spite of rapid decentralization and the structural reordering of the Department, the anticipated benefits of adopting COP could not happen overnight. In the meantime, violent crime continued in the city, with the public—and media—demanding that something be done about it. In response to escalating violent crime from 1989 to 1991, the law enforcement community in Savannah came together to form a temporary drug violence task force, consisting of federal, state and local agencies. In a 30 day period beginning in March 1991, several drug-related homicides and aggravated assaults were cleared. To continue to address the problem of street violence, much of it associated with narcotics trafficking, in late 1991 SPD urged the FBI to partner in the creation of a permanent task force, under the auspices of the Safe Streets Initiative. In the first quarter of 1992, violent crime decreased by 21 percent over the same period in 1991, a significant drop compared with a 30 percent increase in violent crime between the first quarters of 1989 and 1990 and a 24 percent increase between 1990 and 1991. These efforts provided a quick win for policing efforts when a number of known drug traffickers and offenders were apprehended. Michael Donahue attributes the results both to the activities of the Task Force and the cumulative effects of SPD’s long-term relationship with DEA, under which SPD officers had been assigned to DEA investigations since 1984. These joint investigations had led to infiltration and the eventual elimination of four major regional drug organizations centered in Savannah. As Donahue notes: “The elimination of the most recent—and most violent—of these gangs at the end of 1991 also contributed to the abrupt decline in the city’s violence. Analysis of 1991 data . . . indicated that this group was responsible for 25 percent of Savannah’s record-high homicides and 50 percent of all the city’s drug-related murders and aggravated assaults.”45

SPD had taken the first steps and gained momentum—but this was only the beginning. On March 2, 1992, a formal Violent Crimes Task Force was created with a Memorandum of Understanding signed by six agencies: the Federal Bureau of Investigation, SPD, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the Chatham County Police Department, and Chatham County Sheriff’s Office. Seven other agencies joined over time.46 Operating through broad-based participation, communication, and information sharing, the Task Force was directly responsible for 518 arrests from March 1992 to April 1995.47 In August 1994 it also initiated a Top Ten Felon Watch program, targeting wanted persons in the print and electronic media.

Looking Back
In the early 1990s, a confluence of factors propelled SPD into an immediate restructuring of the organization and reconfiguring of basic functions. Crime was rising; political pressure emanated strongly from local government; and the community was restive—SPD could not stand still. Yet Chief Gellatly and his top management had already begun to gain experience through earlier problem-solving and collaborative initiatives in the City, and were increasingly anxious and perhaps ready to apply in their own backyard the new practices and principles emerging elsewhere under the guise of “community policing.” They responded to Mendonsa’s demand for action with understandable apprehension, but also with enthusiasm (some describe it as closer to amazement) and a strong sense of having worked, together, through a “problem-solving process” of their own.

Consolidating Community Policing in Savannah: the 1990s

When the Department decentralized in October of 1991, SPD community policing “guru” Major Dan Reynolds recalls that “people thought of it in the physical sense more than they did in terms of the culture of the organization, what that is going to require—‘not only will you be in separate areas, Captain, but now, instead of during a period of a day, or an 8-hour period, you are responsible 24 hours a day.’” From the earlier mini-station experience, SPD management had learned that “if you give somebody accountability for a piece or a part of something that is tangible, it is a lot easier for them to make a commitment . . . .” Building accountability, from top to bottom, has been an ongoing process since SPD moved formally into community policing in 1991.

But along with building a sense of accountability have come many other challenges. Line officers have had to develop a new “mindset,” learning to think in terms of problems, and acquiring skills to facilitate problem solving. First line supervisors have experienced considerable pressure from acting as “buffers” between upper management, with its changing demands, and line officers, from whom resistance sometimes emanated. New roles have had to be found for lieutenants. New systems of information management have been required, to span the decentralized operations. Furthermore, the Department has committed itself to implementing COP and POP throughout the organization—not just in special COP or POP units—and has focused upon training as a crucial foundation for this transformation. New training modules have been developed, and training carried out for everyone in the organization. Recruitment criteria have changed as well.

The period from 1991 to 1997 has been a time of ongoing and continual building and consolidation in SPD, in which these and many other challenges have been addressed by Chief Gellatly and his top management team.

Changing the Business/Mission of the Organization: COP and POP
During the spring of 1997, the Department turned its attention to developing a new mission statement, embarking upon a process that Chief Gellatly describes as involving “a lot of pain and blood and argument as to what it ought to look like . . . . We tried to put the best together: what do we stand for? What do we do? And let’s not let it be a piece of parchment paper that we hang on the wall and nobody ever looks at again. It ought to be something that every movement, every decision, every activity that we’re involved in, we can look at that and say ‘yes, we meet all those standards by doing this.’” After soliciting department-wide input, the Chief, majors and captains of SPD met in a series of workshops to develop a formal mission statement and identify a set of core values. The idea was to be able to articulate not only for those within the Department, but the community itself, just what was meant by, and what should be expected of, community policing in Savannah.

The mission statement adopted by SPD is “To provide quality services in partnership with our community which promote safe and secure neighborhoods.” Five core values are expressed through the acronym “FIRST:” Fairness, Integrity, Respect, Service, and Teamwork.

Fairness We treat all people impartially, with consideration and compassion. We are equally responsive to our employees and the community we serve.
Integrity We are committed to the highest performance standards, ethical conduct, honesty and truthfulness in all relationships. We hold ourselves accountable for our actions and take pride in a professional level of services.
Respect We treat all persons in a dignified and courteous manner, and exhibit understanding of ethnic and cultural diversity, both in our professional and personal endeavors.
Service We provide quality service in a courteous, efficient and accessible manner. We focus on customer needs and foster community-oriented policing through problem-solving partnerships with citizens.
Teamwork We foster collaboration among our employees. We work in partnership with the community and other agencies to ensure focus and commitment to achieving goals.

The next step was taken when the Chief appointed a committee to develop a strategy for ‘marketing’ the mission statement and ideas embodied in it throughout the community as well as within SPD. Chaired by the lieutenant who heads the Homicide Unit in Investigations, the committee includes sworn and non-sworn members of the Department from every bureau and precinct. It has explored a range of options to increase media coverage and publicity in the city (such as creating a new web page, placing ads in newspapers and the Penny Saver, a local, community newspaper), as well as means of reinforcing the mission and values among personnel within the Department, through coffee mugs and t-shirts, for example.

Consolidating and Expanding COP & POP: Changing the Organization

Structural Changes
The last round of changes in SPD’s formal organization during the 1990s became effective on January 1, 1997, when the Chief ordered that all units relevant to communications and records be integrated into a new Information Management Bureau. As of the end of 1997, the following bureaus in the Department are each headed by a major/deputy chief:

Patrol Bureau (headed by the first deputy chief, Major William Lyght), includes the four precinct operations (each commanded by a captain, with two lieutenants also assigned), Crime Suppression Units, Crime Prevention Officers, the COPS Ahead Unit, and Public Housing Enforcement Officers (that is, mini-station officers). Property crimes investigators are assigned cases according to precinct and expected to develop rapport with the precinct officers, but are operationally in the Criminal Investigations Bureau chain of command.
Support Services Bureau (headed by fourth deputy chief Major Juliette Tolbert), including the Traffic Unit, Personnel Office, Training Unit, Volunteer Program, Crime Prevention Sergeant, Armory, Property Room, Budget Administrator, Quartermaster, and Vehicle Maintenance Coordinator. Three lieutenants head the Traffic, Training, and Administrative units.
Criminal Investigations Bureau (headed by second deputy chief Major Dan Reynolds) includes the TRAP Unit/Criminal Intelligence Center, Units for Homicide and Robbery (which in 1996 were created to replace the Violent Crimes Unit), Property Crimes, and the COPS Domestic Violence Unit, which falls under Homicide. A lieutenant heads each unit.
Information Management Bureau (headed by Major Ralph Bashlor, third deputy chief) including the Communications Center (headed by a captain), which handles E911 calls and dispatch; the Records Unit (headed by a lieutenant, and which includes Data Entry, Microfilm, Warrant Control, and Criminal History, plus the Front Desk); the CAD/RMS Coordinator; a Planning and Research Coordinator; and the Public Information Officer.
Internal Affairs, headed by Captain Gerry Long, falls directly under the Chief.

Developing Core Functions/Processes/Tactics

Operations: Patrol and Investigations

Patrol: Since 1991, patrol functions have been decentralized, operating in each precinct under the command of a captain. After some movement by captains among the precincts following decentralization, the situation appears now to have stabilized. When decentralization took place, empowering captains was seen as key to making them accountable. And today’s captains have taken to their new jobs, reveling in the responsibility afforded them. Major Bill Lyght, First Deputy Chief and Patrol Bureau Commander, comments:

As a patrol bureau commander, I’ve tried to give my captains permission to run the precincts. I don’t tell them how to run the precincts. I tell them that this is the problem that has come up, you’ve got to figure out how you’re going to deal with it. I don’t make beat assignments. I don’t tell them what sergeant to put on what shift. I don’t tell them how to utilize their lieutenants. It’s all on them.
I say . . . one of the most important things you do is to establish a strategy for your precinct based on your analysis of the crime problems. And it’s you who has to go to these communities. You go to the meetings. If you can’t handle it, then you call me and I’ll go handle it. So we talk to them like that and they’re going to handle it.

Captains meet weekly as a group with the Patrol Bureau Commander. Each captain provides a written report monthly to the Commander on crime incidence and specific crime problems in the precinct, strategies utilized to address them, POP projects initiated or ongoing, training held, inspections, community concerns identified. In terms of allocation of budgetary resources, captains possess no separate budget for the precinct over which each has authority; rather, each bureau in the Department has its own budget, monitored by the bureau commander. (Under the current budget system, however, even the Chief and bureau commanders do not have 100% control, since every account number and every line item is monitored by the City Budget Department.) Overtime is also allocated by bureau: the largest portions go to Patrol and CIB, with each monitored by the bureau commander.

The two lieutenants assigned to each precinct are responsible not only for different shifts (frequently one for the 4pm to midnight; the other rotating between 8am to 4pm and midnight to 8am shifts, with a minimum citywide of at least one lieutenant on duty at any particular time), but have increasingly accepted responsibility for specific functions within the precinct such as overseeing the Crime Suppression and Crime Prevention officers, and for POP projects. These responsibilities are not uniform in each precinct, because they are determined by each precinct captain.

During 1997, after compiled data on calls for service were analyzed, the precinct captains agreed upon a redistribution of officers based upon total numbers of calls for service less certain types of officer-initiated calls. While Precinct 4 appeared to be at proper strength, Precinct 3 was increased by 7 positions, while Precinct 2’s allocation was decreased by 3 positions, and Precinct 1’s by 4 positions. (Changes were made through attrition.) Beats are configured by calls for service.

Since 1991, a standard for the use of patrol time has been used to determine if patrol resources are adequate overall, as well as by precinct or shift. On average, no more than 40 percent of patrol time is to be spent on calls for service, no more than twenty percent should be spent on administrative tasks (including court time, food breaks, car wash, and other such tasks), and at least 40 percent of patrol time is to be spent on preventive patrol and problem solving. Data from 1997 show that actual time utilization is running just over 40 percent—at 41.9 percent for calls for service, and that administrative tasks are below 15 percent (14.4 percent). This leaves 42.7 percent of time across all shifts and precincts for preventive patrol and problem solving. (Actual time utilization varies slightly from precinct to precinct, shift to shift, and officer to officer.)

Park, Walk and Talk (signal 74) is expected to be a component of patrol, in which officers are to spend 30 minutes, twice on each shift, getting out of their cars and talking to residents and business owners on their beats. (It is subject to some abuse by officers who need some ‘time out’ for other reasons.) Officers are also expected to attend regular neighborhood meetings to discuss crime problems and solutions. Time utilization sheets are compiled from dispatch records showing the use of officer time by the minute for each month.48 Recognizing the limits of this system, at least one captain has experimented with beat officers recording their own use of time—but he found these to be sufficiently inaccurate as well that they were of little use toward his hopes of gaining a more accurate picture on actual use of patrol officer time.

In 1992, the Bicycle Patrol Unit became the Crime Suppression Unit (CSU) for Precinct 1. During 1994-95, Bicycle Patrol Crime Suppression Units were formed in precincts Two, Three and Four, with approximately six officers in each. CSU officers are handpicked: they are the elite, self-starters, who can be “trusted to operate out in neighborhoods without a lot of oversight.” Known as the “bumblebees,” because they wear yellow shirts and can “swarm” in quickly on bicycles without being seen by lookouts, their activities and schedules vary—one week working 4 to midnight; another from 6pm to 2am. One CSU sergeant explained, “I would just go to the captain, and tell him that the people tell me that the drug boys know that we are off on Sundays and Mondays . . . so we would change our hours and days off to let them know that if you are out there at such-and-such a time because you think we are not going to get you, you have got a rude awakening.” Drug activity is their major, but not sole, target. They may also focus on prostitution, robbery, auto thefts or residential burglaries, or other crimes that show up in the regular statistics that are provided to them at the precinct. They patrol squares, parks, lanes, and city streets, meet and talk with citizens to hear their concerns, conduct sweeps of open air drug markets, and may be called to the scene of a crime on bicycles. Not all CSU officers operate on bicycles: in the suburban neighborhoods of Precinct 4, they are more likely to ride in cars, as they do citywide at night.

For the most part CSU officers are relieved from patrol duty, although they are frequently called to cover beats: early in the summer of 1997, SPD had just had a large turnover, so in order to maintain beat structures and ensure coverage, CSU officers were pulled in to assist. Some in the Department suggest that the CSUs have replaced TRAP as small tactical units within each precinct, and “there is still, from time to time, a move to pull all the Crime Suppression Units back under central authority . . . and along with TRAP, make one big unit under the authority of the detectives office. There is that constant back and forth.” According to some who have worked with them, CSU officers also “love working drugs, and the goal of many is to get into CNT” (Counter Narcotics Team—see below).

At least one crime prevention officer works directly out of each precinct, reporting to the precinct captain. To coordinate activities across precincts, CPOs meet at headquarters weekly. A crime prevention sergeant, in the Support Services Bureau, coordinates citywide crime prevention activities, such as National Night Out, and provides advice and direction for the precinct crime prevention officers. CPOs carry out an almost unlimited variety of activities, working with city code enforcement officials, as do patrol officers, to target and close down problem properties; conducting a variety of educational activities in schools, businesses, and with the elderly; and even analyzing crime patterns within the precinct so that other officers can target focus efforts more effectively. In two precincts, a crime analyst on site also performs this function.

When the mini-stations were created, they were treated as a special program, and assigned as part of the Special Operations Bureau. Not until 1996 were they moved from Special Operations into the Patrol Bureau, in order to tie in with the philosophy of precinct accountability: if Garden Homes was located in Precinct 3, then the mini-station officer for that precinct should report to the Precinct 3 commander, who was responsible for all territory therein. According to Major Lyght, the Patrol Bureau Commander, “it probably should have occurred sooner to be consistent with our precinct philosophy, but its separation in Special Operations was not causing any problem.”

Investigations: The Criminal Investigations Bureau (CIB) is organized in a fairly traditional fashion, divided into units according to type of crime to be investigated. At several key decision points during the 1990s, the Department has engaged in deliberate discussion concerning how CIB should be organized to facilitate COP. For example, staff have considered whether certain detectives (such as those on property crimes), or even all detectives, should be decentralized and assigned to precincts. In general, the conclusion has always been the same: for effectiveness in solving cases, the centralization of detectives provides a pooling of intelligence and better facilitates “explaining” crime phenomena. One exception is the investigation of burglaries, because burglars tend to “work” certain neighborhoods, based upon their familiarity with the activities of would-be victims. For this reason, burglary detectives are assigned cases in specific precincts, although they remain part of CIB. These detectives attend precinct roll calls and work closely with patrol officers assigned there. Detectives from both the precincts and headquarters report that a good deal of communication and cooperation occurs between CIB and the precincts. Unilateral actions by CIB absent informing precinct captains or lieutenants would be frowned upon as not in the spirit of cooperation that the Department seeks to foster.

CIB Commander Dan Reynolds chairs the Violent Crimes Task Force, which meets weekly. Several detectives from CIB attend, along with representatives of other federal, state and local criminal justice agencies, as well as Silent Witness. Meetings provide a forum for the sharing of information concerning recent crime activity and patterns, particular suspects being sought, and ongoing or upcoming initiatives.

Problem-Oriented Policing (POP)

Although problem solving began in SPD during the 1980s, the more formal POP strategy was implemented in the 1990s. POP is the primary strategy for COP. Problem solving has been institutionalized in SPD in two forms: through the creation of a formal POP procedure, and with the designation of Czars—individual officers appointed by the Chief, who exercise his authority in addressing and solving a problem.

The first official POP project was carried out during the summer of 1991 by then Corporal Richard Zapal (who has since become the “POP Czar” in SPD). Repeated incidents at a VFW hall on ‘disco nights’ led to fights, loud noise, trespassing, traffic problems, drug activity, and even stabbings and shootings spilling into the surrounding parking lots, business properties, and the neighborhood. Responding officers found themselves in the midst of hostile crowds “on the verge of panic.” The problem was solved when SPD contacted city officials, the Fire Department, and the Sheriff’s Department, and confronted the VFW with a “business inspection” that produced quantities of drugs and a suspect wanted on a murder warrant. Local VFW officials cancelled all future disco nights. A second project was carried out by Corporal Zapal the same year in Precinct 1 (downtown), when he delivered a letter to everyone living or working on his beat to introduce himself and ask what crime problems needed to be addressed. Then early in 1992, Corporal Woodward, a bike officer in the downtown area, conducted surveys of local merchants and citizens, asking how the bike unit could better serve them. After 80 survey sheets were passed out and 140 were returned, he was surprised to find that there were no property crime complaints—rather, citizens felt threatened from a large number of nonviolent, offensive encounters with street people, and wanted more police visibility. After changing their own policing activities in the area, the bike officers resurveyed the area to ask whether citizens had noticed these changes, and felt any safer. The results showed the police they were “right on target.” These projects were followed up by many more as SPD developed a formal POP strategy.

Since the creation of the precincts, the POP process has been formalized and a uniform documentation procedure developed. The POP model is the SARA procedure (scanning, analysis, response, assessment), which is taught to all officers as part of SPD’s training program in COP and POP. At each precinct, a line officer, a sergeant, and a lieutenant are designated as responsible for POP projects in the precinct. When an officer identifies a project, s/he must initiate the POP process (usually along with some assessment and advice) by obtaining approval from the designated officers in the precinct. The proper forms are completed—setting out the problem in detail, agencies to be contacted, and plan for the project--and sent to the POP Advisory Committee at headquarters. Included on this committee are Lieutenant Larry Branson (head of Training), Major Dan Reynolds, Lt. Richard Zapal, and designated POP officers from each precinct. Upon approval, the project is entered into Lieutenant Zapal’s database on POP projects for tracking, and the officer is free to proceed. Officers who complete POP projects may be nominated for departmental recognition or the Redwing Award.

The use of POP projects appears to have changed considerably since the program was implemented early after decentralization. At first there were many more projects: “people thought everything was a problem for a POP—they didn’t understand what types of problems were really appropriate.” Many of these early projects were never completed, and the numbers being started have dropped off. Those involved in POP projects believe this to be a positive development, since the quality of projects seems to be improving, and those who actually do the formal projects are more serious about them and less apt to be doing a POP project because of pressure from the Department. As data collection was concluding for this study, two officers from the Horse Patrol Unit were beginning a problem-oriented policing (POP) project to resolve problems associated with vagrants loitering and drinking in city parks and squares in the downtown area. As part of their analysis, the officers conducted a citizen survey in December 1997 to gauge citizen opinions and attitudes. By law, outdoor drinking is permitted in public areas so long as the beverage is in a cup. Nevertheless, officers conducting the survey found that only 29.7% of respondents could state the existing law accurately; 70.3% of those surveyed thought drinking should not be allowed in parks and squares; while 73.4% were against drinking on sidewalks. These numbers were considerably lower for the River Street and City Market areas, leading police to believe that citizens assumed these areas to be “designated outdoor drinking areas.” A strategy for solving the associated problems was still being formulated.

A second type of problem solving in SPD has occurred through the use of Czars (a term used by the Department). Chief Gellatly has appointed a number of czars since 1991 to address problems and issues that have arisen in the community and the Department: COP (Major Reynolds), robbery (Captains Lovett and Ragan), prostitution (then Captain Tolbert), traffic (Sergeant Porter), larceny (Lt. C.D. Brown), auto theft (then Lieutenant Long). Increasingly the role of czar is being assigned to lieutenants as part of the move to empower them. The czar has the authority of the chief with regard to the specific problem—to make requests throughout the Department for whatever resources are needed, including assigning personnel and obtaining equipment, and to supervise all aspects of required operations. CSU officers from throughout the precincts may be used, even outside their own areas; work hours can be shifted; extraordinary resources sometimes garnered. For example, as “prostitution czar,” then—Captain Juliette Tolbert convened a task force, developed a mapping strategy for identifying heavy prostitution locations, worked with the courts and probation department to obtain stay-away orders, and developed a system for HIV testing of prostitutes convicted. The results were a 95 percent conviction rate and a 90 percent reduction in prostitution in the areas.49

The strategy of appointing a czar, and following through with the operation of a task force and directed operations, has proven to be one of Savannah PD’s ‘big wins.’ But in addition to solving the immediate problem at hand, as Captain Gerry Long, former czar of auto theft, observes, these problem-solving efforts create a cumulative effect that carries over. “All of these things are still in place” when the next problem comes along. “Your initial start-up is kind of a brainstorming type of thing that you’ve got to look at what you are doing and you need to change, and maybe what you need to address, and once you get that in place, like the hot sheet, now it’s the simple matter of putting new information in daily. . . .” And additionally, Captain Long notes, “departmentally what’s benefited us is that we are no longer hesitant to reach out—to gather from service providers, wherever they may be.” Reaching out has brought collaboration with the District Attorney, judges, social service agencies, city departments, and citizens themselves.

Grants/Special Programs

Weed and Seed: In 1993, a study team headed by the Police Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office applied for and received a grant from the Department of Justice’s Weed and Seed Program. The designated Weed and Seed area covers about two square miles and includes 6,000 people in Precinct Two. It is part of the area targeted in the Crime Control Strategy as having a particularly high concentration of crime, as well as troubling social and environmental conditions—all of which would receive special attention from SPD and the city. Under the direction of City Manager Mendonsa, the majority of Weed and Seed funds went towards “seed” type programs, to provide social and economic opportunities aimed at eliminating the underlying causes of crime. “Weed” funding was limited to equipment, until the COPS Ahead grant secured funding for personnel. A three-person administrative staff was hired and placed under the city’s Public Development Bureau, although staff were located at the Precinct 2 police station. Several programs originated with Weed and Seed—the Youth Intervention Team (Y-Team), the Smart Moves drug prevention and sexual awareness program, and a Cultural Enhancement Program. These efforts supplemented investments from the city’s Community Development Block Grant funds., which went primarily to physical improvements – infrastructure upgrades and housing rehabilitation subsidies.

Counter Narcotics Team (CNT): Created in March of 1994, CNT is the primary drug enforcement agency for the county. The CNT grew out of the Metro Drug Squad, which up until then had been successfully generating numerous cases. Most of these cases arose from drug buys made by the Drug Squad, and involved users rather than drug dealers. They produced weak cases with low prosecution rates, and many of the cases were being dismissed in court—which caused dismay to the District Attorney’s Office and judges. After several officers were involved in a corruption scandal, the Drug Squad was disbanded, and replaced with the Chatham-Savannah County Narcotics Team.

The CNT Commander is a Captain from the Savannah Police Department, on leave to work for the County. By contract, SPD contributes a minimum of one commissioned officer, two sergeants, and ten officers to the Team, but this number has varied from 13 to 16 depending upon participation from other agencies. Other participants include officers from every local municipality in the County, and from the Sheriff’s Department and County Police (with the exception of the Thunderbolt Police Department, which does not contribute an officer but is a signatory to the agreement). In addition, two assistant district attorneys work with the Team, as does a crime analyst from SPD.

The mission of the team is to reduce the supply and demand for illegal drugs in the county by preventing the sale, use, and manufacture of drugs. The Team works undercover, conducting surveillance, targeting drug dealers—those people who sell drugs to the community—and occasionally users who are repeat offenders, and taking the cases to court. CNT sends a representative to meetings of the Violent Crimes Task Force, and shares information concerning operations. Since the creation of the Team, there has been some friction among law enforcement agencies over drug enforcement activities, particularly between SPD and the CNT—SPD wants more time spent on small-time street corner dealers and buyers, while CNT contends that a greater impact can be made by focusing on middle and upper level dealers. Much of this disagreement has been overcome: CNT’s commander emphasizes the need for assistance from and cooperation with SPD’s uniformed officers in creating a uniformed presence on the streets, putting pressure on drug corners, and clearing the drug corners. In fact this cooperation is taking place, and he believes the friction is much reduced. Today CNT has a 97% conviction rate.50

COPS Ahead Grant:51 Received in 1994, the COPS Ahead grant funded ten officers to work in the Weed and Seed area in Precinct Two. The grant expired after three years, at the end of 1997. COPS Ahead funds have gone to support ten officers used in the Crime Suppression Unit, which has a total of sixteen officers in this precinct. Captain Willie Lovett emphasizes that their role is somewhat different from that of other CSU officers because the Weed and Seed officers are also supposed to carry out prevention and outreach functions, and not act only as a tactical unit. Although an attempt was made to form two separate CSU groups initially (Weed and Seed CSU officers and other CSU officers), the division did not work satisfactorily. Therefore, the CSU has operated as a single body within the precinct, although many of its activities fall within the Weed and Seed area.

The CSU officers say that since their number has been increased by the COPS Ahead grant, “we spend more time on the bicycles; we spend more time actually hitting drug corners. I was always real leery on hitting drug corners with just four people because there’s really no way to do it safely.” “Whether we do cars or ride bikes, we interact with the community. On bikes, we talk to a lot of citizens. They see us; we stop; we converse with them on problems—just getting a close up. Also, we see a group of juveniles, we talk to them.”

Along with the Weed and Seed program, two additional grants were funneled into this area: the Y Team and Project Uhuru. The Uhuru project was funded from a number of private and federal sources, and administered through the Youth Futures Authority (which has provided and/or administered a number of other programs in the Weed and Seed area—including the Family Resource Center, the local safe haven). The initial grant period was four years, from 1993-1996. Project Uhuru provided for targeted intervention aimed at middle school youth who were identified as particularly vulnerable to substance abuse, based upon their family experiences and history. Under this program, two SPD officers were funded: they taught skills for life courses in the schools, made home visits to meet with families of the youth, provided mentoring to students, and started a “safe corridors” initiative to ensure that children were able to travel to and from school safely. One of the officers assigned to Project Uhuru also initiated a youth Crime Watch program, recruiting young persons from throughout the City. Project Uhuru officers also met regularly to share information with social service representatives and advocates (working for Youth Futures). The Project Uhuru grant ran out at the end of 1996; however, Director Otis Johnson at Youth Futures wanted it to continue, and some of the activities were picked up by officers working for the Y-Team, under City-SPD funding

The Y-Team has operated since 1995, with two to four SPD officers participating at any one time. Officers work with youth already placed in detention centers and alternative schools, as well as those who have dropped out of school, offering supervision and attempting to keep them from “slipping through the tracks.” Y-Team officers “have seen a lot of kids who were just borderline . . . completely change over and [they] are doing positive things.” But they worry: “when the money runs out, where are you, and that’s what most of the citizens are scared of, and the ones that have been in Savannah for a while have seen many programs come and go.” Initially, Y-Team funding came from Weed and Seed monies; starting in 1997, the two positions were supported through COPS Ahead funds, with the responsibilities taken on by two of the ten COPS Ahead officers.

Recent Weed and Seed evaluations provide some feedback on overall SPD activities in the area.52 In 1997, findings suggested that SPD was making progress in reducing crime and drug activities during 1995-96, and that residents felt safer and had increased confidence in police efforts. The report also suggested that the COP goal of greater resident contact occurred best through foot patrol, even though bicycle patrol could contribute positively; nevertheless, the report found that bicycle patrol appeared to be supplementing traditional law enforcement activities rather than COP in the Weed and Seed area. The report also proposed that POP projects carried out by officers be greatly increased, and it suggested that they should address social problems, as well as physical and environmental concerns. In 1996, CSU officers also conducted their own house to house surveys within the Weed and Seed area to obtain information about citizen perceptions of crime, safety, neighborhood problems, and police activities.

Virtually everyone who has contributed in any way to the Weed and Seed area programs has seen improvement: there has been a “genuine reduction in crime,” “less drug activity.” The question for many is whether the area can sustain these improvements and resist pressures from outside when the programs cease to operate. The City has indicated that due to falling revenues, in 1998 it will continue funding only four of the ten SPD positions carrying over from the COPs Ahead grant.53 SPD intends to use two of the four officers to continue the Y-team; the other two will continue to work in the Weed and Seed area.

COPS Domestic Violence Grant: Received in 1996 for one year, expiring at the end of 1997, this COPS grant funded two investigators (located in CIB) and provided additional monies for the department to sub-grant to fund three civilians—a project coordinator and two advocates—who work out of the Safe Shelter, a local shelter for battered women and children that existed before the COPS grant was received. The Domestic Violence Unit is headed by the Homicide Lieutenant in the Investigations Bureau—a fact that has made an impression upon a number of people who have called the SPD number for domestic violence matters, and found that it fell under Homicide.

The project operates as an outreach program in connection with the Safe Shelter, although it is housed in a separate location. The two investigators and advocates work side by side. When the project began, police reports coming in were so numerous that criteria had to be developed for accepting certain cases, even though the grant had been awarded to investigate all domestic violence cases. The decision was made to pursue only romantic relationships, regardless of marital status or gender of the parties. The detectives screen police reports received (an SPD report is written for every domestic violence incident, regardless of whether violence or injury is observed), and make copies for the advocates, who then attempt to contact victims. To target high risk cases, they use the Tiburon RMS to run reports to see how many prior reports (as opposed to arrests) have come in from a victim or location. As soon as a warrant is issued, the officers attempt to serve it with as little delay as possible, and both advocates and the officers attempt to encourage victims to cooperate with a prosecution. The Chatham County District Attorney has assigned an assistant district attorney to work with the domestic violence project, and there is a separate domestic violence docket in the Recorder’s Court. Cases are not generally prosecuted without the victim’s assent. However, the assistant district attorney meets regularly with the detectives and advocates, and tells them what she needs to prosecute particular cases so that they can assist in gathering the evidence.

When the project began, advocates and investigators together went to each precinct, attending roll call on each shift, to inform patrol officers about the services that were available, and to encourage the officers to contact the Domestic Violence Unit. Since then, their duties have been expanding, as has their collaboration with other criminal justice agencies locally. Advocates and officers conduct training for local colleges, schools, and groups around the City and County as part of their aggressive community awareness campaign. They fax police reports to all of the probation and parole officers concerning perpetrators and pertinent information, so that probation or parole can be revoked for offenders. They work closely with the Domestic Violence Task Force (with representatives from City, criminal justice, and social service agencies), which has written a domestic violence protocol adopted by SPD.

According to SPD top management, this grant has had a large impact on Department operations. They report that previously domestic violence was not treated all that seriously: before the grant facilitated the creation of a domestic violence unit, officers would arrive at the scene of a domestic violence call, write a report, and notify the victim of available services and how to obtain a warrant. But it was largely up to the victim to seek out those services, and if no arrest had been made at the time of the incident, frequently a warrant issued later would go unserved. Misdemeanor domestic violence cases simply weren’t investigated. (Although this has gradually changed, many other offenses still receive more investigative time than does domestic violence.) CIB Commander Reynolds indicates that these positions would be hard to lose now because they provide such a valuable service to victims. The two officers handle an average of 40 misdemeanor cases (plus 8 felony cases) a month—cases they wouldn’t have been assigned in the past. These officers also carry some of the domestic aggravated assault cases that other violent crime detectives now no longer have to handle.

At the time of data collection, the civilians and SPD had submitted parallel grants to the state to attempt to get further funding for their respective activities. When additional funding did not come through, SPD committed itself to continue the project, with one position to come from Patrol, and another from CIB. The project is also undergoing a self-assessment, to determine what has been achieved with the current program, and where it should go from here. As a general approach, Major Reynolds would like to see greater reporting and prosecution rates, but he has followed recent research suggesting that the use of police reports to identify problem victims and offenders, and using jail as a sanction, may not always be the best way of dealing with domestic violence—referrals and counseling may ultimately be more beneficial. The re-evaluation of the program will be conducted by considering these other options as well. The number of police calls for domestic violence disturbances has decreased slightly since the implementation of the program, but supervisors are hopeful that public awareness will encourage more victims to report domestic violence, and could even cause an increase. As Lieutenant Fagerstrom, who heads the project, points out, “The success of the program may be difficult to measure…but if we…save just one life by preventing a series of incidents from escalating into a domestic homicide, the program has been worthwhile.”

New Grants: In October 1997, SPD received an unsolicited National Highway Traffic Safety Administration grant, and in December, another COPS grant, Advancing Community Policing. The NHTSA grant requires SPD’s participation in a study of the effects of traffic enforcement on levels of crime activity and traffic accidents.54 The Advancing Community Policing grant is designed to enhance leadership and management skills for COP and stimulate innovative ideas and experimentation through training and site visits to other police departments.

Administration and Support Services
Major Juliette Tolbert, the new commander of the Support Services Bureau (appointed in February of 1997), finds that the emphasis within the community policing philosophy on partnerships, communication and team building is applicable inside the Department as well as outside: “it is very important that we keep a dialogue going, that communication generated between my unit and the others . . . because none of the bureaus can function to its peak without the support of the others.” Major Tolbert has defined the bureau’s primary function as providing “good customer service” to officers throughout SPD. Seeking to improve attitudes within the bureau by cultivating greater sensitivity to the changing needs of personnel throughout the Department, she has concentrated on personnel and quartermaster units.


Recruitment: The Department has recently begun to conduct a review and re-evaluation of past recruitment criteria, in part by looking at individuals previously hired and assessing whether they actually met the needs of the community and the Department. Behind this action lies the belief that adopting COP and POP requires SPD to develop new recruitment criteria. Prior to implementing COP, the Department’s selection process focused primarily on traditional police values such as “integrity, stamina, and individual courage.”55 After implementing COP and POP, the Department began to look for potential officers who were already thinking about community-oriented policing. In the current interviewing process, applicants are asked questions to determine whether they have an understanding of what community-oriented policing is, and its importance; attention is paid to whether they possess skills in social interaction and problem-solving. For a few years in the mid-90’s, applicants were required to have one year of college. However, the City’s Human Resources Department eliminated this requirement around 1996, concluding that college-level education was not a necessary pre-requisite to becoming a police officer. Minimum training and qualifications were returned to the pre-COP levels: a high school diploma or equivalent, Georgia P.O.S.T. certification, and age of 21 years. The Department has generally maintained a register of about 300 applicants in a pool that could be drawn upon for new hires whenever officers are lost, so recruiting has not usually been difficult. A conscientious effort is made to recruit minorities and women: in a city with a 51% minority population, sworn personnel are 44% minority and females comprise 12% of sworn officers.

Performance/Evaluation Techniques, Measures, and Compensation: This is an area in transition within the Department, in part because of new procedures being put in place that apply to all City employees, including police. The employee evaluation process in particular has changed just this year. Previously, the evaluation was conducted through the numerical ranking of an officer (by superior officers) on a scale of 1-5, in 30 categories; termination could result if an officer scored a 2 or below. The City’s new Employee Development Plan (related to its Total Quality Management strategy) is replacing this ranking system: each employee will identify his or her own strengths and weaknesses; a supervisor will then review and add to this self-assessment; and specific recommendations will be developed to assist an officer in continuously improving his or her performance.

Promotion in SPD to sergeant, lieutenant, and captain occurs by passing written and oral examinations offered through an assessment center: the University of Georgia assists in this process. Candidates respond to a series of questions, many of which concern scenarios they might face on the job, and are asked to explain what action they would take. Scenarios run the gamut from tactical problems, to scheduling and management issues, to personnel problems. The questions are asked and scored by law enforcement personnel from other departments in the State of Georgia.

The current modular advancement plan for salaries covers officers through the rank of corporal, and is based upon education and number of years of service. Above the rank of corporal, salaries can increase only through promotion, except for cost of living increases. This system is in transition, however, as the City moves to implement a new pay plan with three components. First, there will be a general cost of living wage increase that will vary from year to year. Second, pay for performance, with criteria to be determined by SPD and approved by City Human Resources, will make up 2.5% of the total personnel salary budget. The employee will be able to affect the outcome of this component by obtaining further education or otherwise improving his or her job-related performance and capabilities. Third, there will be a cost savings component that has not been fully worked out.


Traditionally the Department submitted its budget request to the City Budget Office. In 1996, a Total Quality Management team formed to study the budget preparation process concluded that the City Budget Office should prepare the initial budget. This new procedure was implemented in the last year.

SPD’s 1997 budget was approximately $25.5 million; in 1998 it will be $26.4 million. The Chief and his upper management staff point to a number of areas in which they believe greater funding is sorely needed. Patrol is a high priority: when decentralization occurred in 1991, the City made an initial outlay to increase the size of SPD by 34 officers; since then there have been no substantial increases in funding except for the addition of Crime Suppression Officers. When the COPS Ahead grant ends this year, the number of Crime Suppression Officers funded for the Weed and Seed area will drop from ten to four, since the City has declined to support the full number. The COPS Domestic Violence grant also expires this year, although the Department will continue the two investigator positions by moving resources from elsewhere. Additionally, the overtime budget, which has increased in recent years due to a number of special events (the St. Patrick’s Day and July Fourth require the greatest outlays), was cut back for 1998 from $397,649 to $390,649. The Department’s projection was that an increase of 8%, to $436,860, was necessary to meet its needs. Patrol and Investigations are the greatest consumers of overtime.

Internal Affairs

Currently headed by Captain Gerry Long, former “czar” of auto theft, the Internal Affairs Unit deals with incidents and complaints that are not resolved at the precinct level. There is no civilian review board or crime commission that reviews cases or deals with complaints.

Most Internal Affairs investigations result from the application of SPD’s standard use of force policy: every instance in which a physical encounter takes place between a suspect or citizen and an officer is documented in writing and investigated. Internal Affairs reviewed 492 incidents in 1996: complaints were filed by victims in 17 of these incidents, of which 3 were sustained (officers were found to have acted outside Departmental policy). Internal Affairs also handles a variety of other types of complaints, generated from outside as well as inside the Department, of which 112 were investigated in 1996: 25 concerned “professionalism;” 22 “conduct unbecoming an officer;” 19 on “procedures;” 15 on “duties and responsibilities;” and 31 representing various miscellaneous categories. Of these 112 complaints, 41 were sustained.

Many complaints are dealt with routinely on a precinct level—by a supervising patrol sergeant, and at times by the precinct commander—and do not reach Internal Affairs. For example, a citizen may call a precinct and complain that s/he is not satisfied with how an officer treated her as a victim—perhaps the officer was not sympathetic enough. In such cases, where a violation of Departmental policy has not occurred, but poor judgment may be present, the precinct commander may delegate a sergeant or some other supervisor to talk with the officer about his or her action. Whether Internal Affairs investigates or not, discipline takes place through the regular chain of command, and in accordance with guidelines established to implement a progressive discipline program whose goal is consistency and increasing severity of punishment for those officers involved in repeated incidents. The least serious incidents result in verbal reprimands, while written reprimands and suspensions are utilized in more serious cases.

The question of whether increasing or decreasing numbers of complaints have actually been filed with the implementation of community and problem-oriented policing is difficult to discern because statistics are compiled by type of duty (on duty/off duty, extra duty, uniformed, security job) rather than nature of officer activity. At this time upper management in SPD see no discernible difference that can be correlated with the Department’s move into COP and POP. In late 1997, a plan was in place to increase the number of announced and unannounced field inspections by Internal Affairs to ensure that CALEA standards were maintained and that Departmental Standard Operating Procedures were being followed.


For new officers, the Police Academy provides eight weeks of general training; this is followed by two weeks of in-house training at SPD, and twelve weeks of on-the-job work with a Field Training Officer. But SPD has placed considerable emphasis on continuing education of officers in the form of in-house training since decentralization occurred and COP and POP were implemented. Major Dan Reynolds has taken a special interest in and overseen the development of curricula: modules have been written and taught by Major Reynolds, Lieutenant Larry Branson and Dr. Vance McLaughlin, with assistance and consultation from others in the Department, such as Lieutenant William Harvey in Precinct 3, Lieutenant James Barnwell, and Lieutenant Richard Zapal. Many of these officers teach COP and POP outside SPD as well.

In-house training in COP and POP is conducted for all staff, at all levels (both sworn and civilian). Soon after the 1991 decentralization, attempts were made to train officers at each precinct who, according to plan, would then teach the basics of POP. While a number of talented officers in SPD have developed considerable skill in teaching POP and COP, the current instructors believe this model was not successful. Instead, a set of modules has been developed that are offered several times a year so that officers from different precincts can take them, together, as needed and required. The goal at this time is to offer constant retraining, so that everyone in SPD receives COP and POP training at least once every two years.

Eight training modules have been developed, each of which is taught in four or eight hours:57
Module I—Participatory Decisionmaking and Leadership Techniques for Management, Supervision, and Street Officers (designed for administrators and managers; an overview of the remaining modules and of COP);
Module II—Community-Oriented Policing (for rank and file officers);
Module II—Problem-Oriented Policing (POP, including the SARA model, using specific examples of how to develop a POP project);
Module IV—Referral System, Materials, City Ordinances;
Module V—Developing Sources of Human Information (which teaches listening skills and information gathering techniques that are useful in various types of contacts with citizens);
Module VI—Neighborhood Meetings, Survey of Citizen Needs, Crime Analysis;
Module VII—Crime Prevention, Home and Business Surveys;
Module VIII—Supervisors.
The last of these modules was designed in 1997 to address the particular concerns of supervisors, and has largely replaced Module I.

Modules are generally offered to patrol officers and supervisors separately to encourage maximum participation among those in lower ranks during the classes. Within the last two years, greater emphasis has been placed on developing modules to train supervisors in the special skills needed to manage COP and POP. Hearing repeatedly the message coming up from line officers that not all supervisors really understand COP and POP, the Department has also been encouraging officers in the top ranks to attend training sessions.

The centralized training in COP and POP has had one important result that perhaps was unintended: many describe the precincts as four separate departments, yet “training people together in POP is bridging the gap, and people are working across precinct boundaries on POP projects. It has brought the Department together.” But it has also become clear not only to those involved in writing the modules and conducting training, but line officers themselves, that the Department needs to educate other criminal justice agencies, city government, and citizens about policing goals and strategies in the community. One officer learned this when he testified in court and referred to “POP-ing” a person who had been particularly troublesome to a neighborhood for some length of time. Hearing “popping,” the judge responded harshly—thinking the officer was going to attack him physically. Employees from other city departments, as well as assistant district attorneys, have occasionally sat in when the modules are offered.

Citizens Academy and Volunteer Program

The Citizens Police Academy is a twelve-week classroom course in COP taught by officers of SPD for citizens. Many who attend the academy later participate in the Volunteer Program, which allows citizens who have completed the Citizens Police Academy to donate time to assist with various support activities while providing SPD another avenue into the community. Currently 63 individuals are registered as volunteers—retired teachers, factory workers and homemakers, as well as younger people who are still working. They work both at headquarters and in the precincts, assisting SPD by keeping track of precinct-level data (such as by pin maps), stepping in for Crime Prevention officers when they are out on leave, and even providing professional photographic and writing services to publicize SPD activities in the community.

Technological Capacity: Information Management

A major change in information technology over the last four years has been the decentralization of access to information. Prior to 1994, only four individuals (the analysts) could access data from the mainframe. The implementation of the integrated Computer Aided Dispatch and Records Management System (CAD/RMS) in 1994 came on the heels of a citywide conversion to a local area network (LAN) environment. This decentralized computer system meant that all available information was immediately accessible to any SPD employee via personal computer. With home PCs becoming the norm, more officers at all ranks were becoming computer literate and comfortable using PCs at work to extract crime information. SPD now has well over 100 PCs located throughout several buildings. Many officers access crime data themselves, without having to wait for compilation by an analyst. An added benefit of this transformation is that working with the data directly has provided these officers with a better understanding of what the data mean. In a relatively short period of time, email has also become a common means of communication: officers (including Chief Gellatly) regularly use the internet to search ideas being used in other cities.

The new Information Management Bureau was created in January 1997. Chief Gellatly had attended a Police Executive Research Foundation meeting the previous year along with Major Ralph Bashlor, and the two had extensive conversations concerning problems in the current information management system. (In 1994, the Department had installed the Tiburon system. CAD was placed in operation in January, and RMS in April. A CAD/RMS Administrator was appointed in December of that year.) It was clear that the system was not meeting the needs of the decentralized Department: as Major Bashlor describes it, “little problems with things became big problems with accuracy of information, reliability of information, dissemination of that information, and actually giving it to the guys in some usable form or making it accessible to them in such a way that meant something in the real world of police work.” In a major reorganization at the end of 1996, the Chief created a new bureau and appointed Major Bashlor to head it.

Major Bashlor identifies input and access as the biggest communication and information management problems: relying on an operator to enter data at a terminal increases the potential for error, whereas “if you had a system where the officers in the car entered their reports directly and it automatically links into your database, is screened, then stored, you could eliminate a lot of positions in which they’re doing nothing more than redoing what’s been done before.” Bashlor is thinking long-range—“what needs will we have five years from now?” And he is making changes: during mid-1997, the radio room was being expanded to handle an 800 MHZ trunking system and provide room for growth;58 and he was writing an RFP on document imaging in order to change the process of document handling so that reports could be scanned, brought up on the City’s network on the computer system, and then brought back into the police network via a relational database with a graphical user interface. He was also exploring the use of Lotus Notes software for storage and tracking of POP projects. All with the goals of developing systems that could constantly be adjusted to new needs, that officers would find easy and “fun” to use (his staff conduct regular training in the current computer system operations throughout SPD), and that could be afforded.

A Window into the Four Precincts
While the preceding discussion is organized by function, it may be easier to understand “community policing on the ground” in Savannah by taking a brief snapshot of each precinct, during the summer and early fall of 1997.

PRECINCT 1: Precinct One, on the north side of town, includes the historic district, Savannah’s downtown riverfront commercial area, three public housing projects served by mini-stations—Fellwood Homes, Yamacraw, and Hitch Village, as well as residential areas and a major roadway leading out to the airport. Captain Fletcher Cross has commanded Precinct One since November of 1996. Known in the Department as a fierce advocate for local citizens and their neighborhoods, Captain Cross has turned his attention lately on how to bring the diverse communities in Precinct 1 together:

what I’m trying to do now is to get the businesses and the young people in the housing areas that we have here, thinking together. I want the businesses to show some ownership for the neighborhoods—I want the kids when they pass those walls . . . to know there are some things going on inside those businesses. Maybe they’ll bring the kids in to look at what they are doing and maybe identify some skills early in life that they can utilize in those places. You have a certain business in town that just opened, and they can hire 100 . . . so I’d like to see local talent going there. If you know the faces with the businesses and the businesses know the faces in the neighborhoods, then you are less likely to have vandalism….59

Recently Captain Cross and his officers started two new POP projects involving conflicts among citizens: one is around the City Market—a trendy location where cafes and bars draw different clienteles in the evening, from The Zoo, a 90s-style discotheque that appeals to a young crowd, to Stogies, a “cigar bar” that attracts older patrons. Data collected for the POP clearly show that while crime citywide decreased by 7.2% in 1997, crime in the City Market area increased by 38.6 %. This increase is linked with underage drinking, fights and simple assaults, disorderly conduct, cruising by youth, and thefts from automobiles—attributed at least in part to Savannah’s liberal drinking laws. Anyone is permitted to drink alcohol out of doors so long as it is in a cup; youth under age 21 are permitted to enter bars so long as they are not served alcohol. The tentative plan of the POP project is to change the City ordinance to prohibit drinking in public, and to require bar patrons to be 21 years of age. In addition, SPD personnel working on this project will try to change the land use zoning ordinance for the Broughton Street area to prevent future bars from opening.

The second POP project is centered on a residential neighborhood that has been “discovered” by a motorcycle gang. Police are working with an assistant district attorney to research and explore the possible use of nuisance law. SPD is also working with the Savannah Development and Renewal Authority to improve the Broughton Street corridor.

PRECINCT 2: Captain Willie Lovett, first supervisor of the original mini-stations, commands Precinct Two, the area targeted by Weed and Seed and the original Crime Control Strategy. When asked if the responsibility is at times overwhelming, he responds with a grin that seems irrepressible and explains his mission as:

it’s kind of like having ownership of a part of the city and you—I would be proud to have my family ride through Precinct 2 and say, this is my area, this is where I work, this is what I’m responsible for, these are my officers—this is ours—this is what we do and I think it’s that sense of ownership and accomplishment . . . we receive with things being done. You see the dilapidated housing being torn down . . . you see families beginning to move back into the inner city that once moved out . . . . You no longer see a block infested with drug dealers . . . it’s that kind of thing—you have to experience it.

Captain Lovett himself attends between eight and fourteen community meetings a month—some are held in the precinct station itself; others in local churches, schools, or neighborhood service centers: “I need to be there, right at the source, if they ask me a question, I’ll get an answer or tell them right then whether I can do it, or whether I will work on it, or what. More than anything else . . . I truly believe that if I knew nothing else about anything, not managing people not anything, the most important piece of information I could have is to know what’s going on in the community.”

Assigned to Precinct Two, Sergeant Harry Trawick works the 4pm to midnight shift. He tries to spend as much time on the streets with his beat officers as he can. But he has also found time to do a POP project (still in process) in which he is exploring ways to cut down on “wasted officer time” in the Recorder’s Court—being called to testify in a case in which the officer isn’t really needed, having to wait around all day, losing considerable time from other duties. Trawick’s project has involved drafting memos to the Recorder’s Court Director and judges, working with a focus group convened at SPD to consider the problem and possible solutions, and developing suggestions for better scheduling of Court activities. Sergeant Trawick has learned patience and perseverance: “you have to recognize that in doing these projects, you never get everything you want or ask for—there is always accommodation and compromise.” According to Trawick, one of his most valuable learning experiences in policing came as a detective assigned to sex crimes and juveniles, when he worked closely with staff from the District Attorney’s Office, Department of Youth Services, and other agencies, and at the Children’s Advocacy Center in the Weed and Seed area. He found that this type of cooperation built up ties that were invaluable in problem solving.

PRECINCT 3: Captain Alvin Stokes is the only precinct commander who has commanded the same precinct continuously since its creation in 1991. Precinct Three is the largest in terms of population, and includes areas in which residents “hold the highest number of degrees and letters to the lowest educated, from the very rich to housing projects (Garden Homes, which has a mini-station).” Proud of his officers and the 10% reduction in crime that his precinct achieved in 1997, Stokes nevertheless has a reputation for being a strict, no-nonsense leader, and for “going by the book” when it comes to his officers following Standard Operating Procedures and Departmental policies. Stokes is quick to point out that he has more neighborhood associations than any other precinct, and spends much of his time “trying to meet the needs of citizens.” In fact, some of Precinct Three’s neighborhood associations are vocal and strong; others are having a lot of trouble. Recently officers in the precinct have been turning considerable attention to quality of life issues because that is what citizens are complaining about.

Afternoon shift commander Lieutenant William Harvey supervises the CSU (Crime Suppression Unit), oversees crime prevention activities, and writes prodigiously on COP (as well as teaching it). As a detective previously, Harvey was one of the first to assign his (burglary) investigators to precincts. He hates to lose people from the precinct for whatever reason: when one of the beat officers was injured in a shooting last year, Captain Stokes kept him in the precinct and assigned him to assist in crime prevention efforts. Lieutenant Harvey claims this was a tremendous success: “we have so many neighborhood associations that the CPO . . . when she went, we would never see her. Now [with two CPOs] . . . we are finding that some neighborhoods prefer to work with one or the other.” For his part, the injured officer has also benefited.

We do POP projects constantly, and I have time to really help individuals. One lady in particular, people kept stealing her plants off her porch, and I met her on Sunday mornings. She had these huge plants. So I suggested to her, ‘why don’t you get a security light installed on your porch?’ But she was older, and said she didn’t have any relatives in town to help her. So one Sunday I went back and installed four lights—the kind that go off and on, motion lights. And it did the trick. Once you build these relationships with people out in the public, you know, police will pass by them every day, but that want that one officer.

PRECINCT 4: Precinct Four is a very different setting than other precincts: much of its territory was annexed by the City (to its south) during the 1970s. It is primarily residential and suburban, with a large planned area, apartment complexes, and a thriving retail and commercial environment. The precinct station is located in one of two malls, in a modern and well-maintained building, with space provided by mall owners. Captain Everette Ragan, commander of the precinct and one of the lead investigators in the case that made Savannah famous last year with the filming of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and the book of the same name, comments “We have a different mission. Ours is primarily property, loss prevention and traffic problems. A lot of our enforcement and service is done for the retail community, the large malls, the strip malls, the shopping areas. Our strategies a lot of times are geared toward shoppers, not necessarily residents, but shoppers who frequent these areas and have had their cars broken into or stolen." Precinct Four does not have neighborhood service coordinators (assigned by the City) as do other precincts.60 But it does have neighborhood watches, with watch captains and block captains.

Precinct Four’s Crime Suppression (bicycle) Unit has lately been pulled into patrol duties—illness and injury added to being “five bodies short” and left the precinct with ten patrol spots unfilled. Captain Ragan credits a problem-solving approach and concentrating on small things, rather than sheer numbers of personnel, for achieving the precinct’s reductions in both violent and property crimes.

You have to work at it—you have to be in the neighborhoods, and when somebody calls in complaining about some kids walking through . . . rather than just snuffing him off, you’ve got to deal with it. Maybe it’s not what you consider a high priority as far as catching the crew, but if you curtain the activity, people walking through other people’s yards at night and everything else, then your property crimes and your thefts are going to come down and you are going to have a better relationship with people.

Developing a New Management/Leadership Style
Gellatly has survived nearly eighteen years as Savannah’s chief of police: he is known as a strong leader, a “hands-on manager” at times, and makes it clear that he will not tolerate corruption or wrongdoing by officers on his force. But he has not remained chief by being inflexible. There is no doubt by officers at every level of SPD that the Chief strongly backs COP and POP. Yet Gellatly himself believes that above all, COP requires a police department to be adaptable and able to change:

…if we are successful in certain neighborhoods, we need to constantly determine where we are not so successful and be willing to improve and change. I think that the biggest challenge for a police department as far as COP and POP is concerned, is the constant necessity for change—and nobody, especially cops, likes to do that. So just the second we feel comfortable with group meetings and working closely with the community, it might be necessary that we need to change to something radically different. I think there lies the challenge in the future for us that we’ll need to be able to continuously embrace change.

Gellatly has dealt with this need for adaptation and change by assembling a group of majors and captains with an array of different talents, who also back COP and POP. He has given them the autonomy necessary to improvise, while at the same time holding them accountable. The Department has also adopted a Total Quality Management approach based on the Deming model. This same model has been introduced in all City departments. All SPD supervisors are required to attend City-sponsored training on TQM principles.

Management concerns now center around two issues: first, teaching supervisors at all levels how to “manage” most effectively officers who are involved in COP and POP. Second, Major Lyght in particular is considering how to empower lieutenants and sergeants: lieutenants have served as “czars” from time to time, but precinct lieutenants have typically functioned as “assistant precinct captains” with no specific duties. Recent suggestions are to make them accountable for specific service areas within the precincts, appoint them to head Crime Suppression Units, and make them responsible for POP or crime prevention efforts in a precinct. In March of 1997, Major Lyght formalized some of these changes, requiring one precinct lieutenant to brief each weekly staff meeting at headquarters concerning the lieutenant’s area of responsibility, crime problems identified in the area, strategies developed to curb the problems, successes and failures in the implementation of these strategies within the last month, and strategies for dealing with foreseeable problems in the near future.61 As for sergeants, “I would love to see sergeants responsible for certain beats. But we haven’t gotten that far yet. That’s where I’m headed. If I can give sergeants 24 hour responsibility, I will have accomplished a lot. But I’ve only succeeded with captains so far. I’m working with lieutenants, and I’m going to work on sergeants in the future.”

Chief Gellatly also sees the importance of focusing on sergeants:

there isn’t any police department in the country that is going to be any better or any worse than the first-line supervisor, you know, and they are the ones that put out what the values of the department are, and what we stand for . . . . [O]ne of the things we are teaching them . . . and it’s contrary to a lot of older police philosophy, is that it’s okay to challenge the lieutenant, it’s okay to challenge the captain and the major, it’s okay to challenge the chief—but have substance . . . say ‘my opinion is based on these facts or this research.’

He also is concerned with how to use different types of skills possessed by his officers: “there are certain officers who do a really good job when it comes to relating to the community . . . and then there are others who aren’t, but they write good reports and things of this nature.” Gellatly thinks it might be possible to distinguish the two types of officers and have “maybe two officers in one precinct for eight hours a day, all they do is . . . take reports, thus freeing up other officers for the entire eight hour shift to work POP programs. We’re in the infant stages of doing that right now.”

Community Policing in Savannah, 1997

The Community
In the last ten years, the Savannah Police Department has created a new role for itself, and a new perception, among civic leaders and ordinary residents in the community. In the words of one (who spoke as both):

The police are simply more accessible. They are more available. They are more a part of the solution. People think more often of including them . . . . When [you] choose to have a community event . . . you call the community oriented policing number and they’re very supportive about setting up block parties . . . . [This] increases cohesion and it allows people to get to know each other . . . . It’s a very good thing . . . the police are more and more considered a part of the solution and less and less just an alien force that is unknown.

Through a strategy that is largely ad hoc and implicit rather than highly planned, nevertheless reflecting the shared assumptions of the Chief, Major Dan Reynolds, and management staff, SPD has marketed itself as a friendlier, concerned police department. But the projected image appears to represent SPD accurately. While sensitive to its outward appearance, SPD also seems serious about listening to citizen concerns and acting upon them. Officers from precinct captain down to line officers constantly attend neighborhood meetings and interact with citizens. From the web page, to national CNN news coverage, the local Penny Saver, and city-wide National Night Out events, SPD is out in the City, telling residents and citizens about its COP philosophy and POP strategy.

At the same time, however, community policing has created expectations that may not always be easy to meet: one resident notes that “the neighborhoods that feel like they do have some police presence also believe that that has a great impact on crime, and a sense of safety . . . . In areas where they don’t see any difference, I think the cynicism may be very much still there.” Racial divisions persist in Savannah, and in the African-American community, responses to the police vary: one community leader sees children and older adults as more positive, while male teenagers are less so, perhaps because they are more sensitive to the authority exercised by police. At the same time, different parts of SPD produce differing responses: the Crime Suppression Units and bike officers are noticed, appreciated, and well-liked by residents, while officers who conduct routine responses to calls for service meet with more resistance and resentment. Highly respected clergy, such as Rev. Thurmond N. Tillman of the First African Baptist Church (the oldest black church in North America), a chaplain for SPD, minister to officers as well as the local African-American community, and while doing so try to keep the lines of communication open.

In September 1997, shortly before data collection was completed, ten current and former SPD officers (and an eleventh Chatham County police officer) were arrested and indicted on federal drug charges following a twenty-month investigation in which CNT was involved. All were African American. These indictments followed on the heels of the arrest of several prominent black community members for their involvement in an illegal pyramid scheme. Chief Gellatly cooperated fully with the investigation. When questions were inevitably raised in the Savannah Morning News over whether the Chief and City Manager Michael Brown should be held accountable since the events had taken place “on their watch,” the predominant community response appeared to be a heightened sensitivity among African Americans that all those who were subjects of the indictments were black, and a belief that they may have been unfairly targeted in the investigations. Morale in the Department was low following the incidents, and all officers—regardless of race—took extra care in carrying out tasks involving contacts with citizens in African American neighborhoods, including the housing projects (where a routine use of force involving one offender brought six cars on one night). As troublesome as were these recent events, Savannah’s Police Department does not appear to reflect, or be identified with, any sense of racial polarization in the City.

One reason for this may lie in the fact that neighborhood associations remain strong in Savannah: with the changes taking place in the City since the late 1980s, these associations have become, and have stayed, “connected” to City Hall as well as to SPD. Many neighborhood associations—from predominantly black as well as white areas—are on familiar terms with their patrol officers, and members call them directly (“we used to call Major Reynolds, but now we call our local officer”). In 1997, in a concerted effort to achieve some unity of purpose among neighborhood associations, a Neighborhood Council was formed which offered representation for all neighborhood associations. The plan was for each association president to sit on the Council, representing the neighborhood in discussions of city-wide issues, and for the Council therefore to be able to speak to City Hall with a single voice, and supposedly greater strength. Accounts suggest that this ideal has not been achieved: instead, the Council has been dominated by a few strong leaders, weakening its overall effectiveness. By the end of 1997, there were no meetings being held: the Neighborhood Council appeared to have died on the vine.

Nevertheless, Savannah’s neighborhood associations remain an effective source of citizen input and mobilization within the city, and many continue to work with SPD. In the downtown commercial area, Larry Lee of the Historic Savannah Foundation points out that two members of the Downtown Neighborhood Association serve, along with representatives of the Foundation and several other organizations, on the City’s Tourism Advisory Committee. As crime rates have dropped and fear of crime has lessened, Lee also reports that the Downtown Association has seen a gradual change in its concerns: with SPD assistance, the safety and crime issues that loomed large a few years ago have been replaced by a focus on small offenses. The last major problem was male prostitution in some of the squares after bar closing time—which, according to Association members, drew a good response from the Police Department.

Local Government, Criminal Justice Institutions, and Social Service Agencies
Several suggest that Chief Gellatly himself—having stood up earlier in the decade to City Manager Mendonsa’s demands, then responding with positive and innovative proposals for re-orienting SPD and carrying off the transition to community and problem-oriented policing—occupies today a stronger position vis a vis local government and the City Manager. Certainly some in the community also believe the “micro-management” of the Police Department from City Hall (if indeed that took place) has decreased since Mendonsa left and current City Manager Michael Brown took office. Yet there is another perspective: according to this view, Mendonsa responded to citizen demands but paid as much attention to research and the evidence that it made available, and was not afraid to tell citizens they were wrong. When he wanted SPD to address a problem, Mendonsa might give an ultimatum—yet he also gave SPD the freedom, and responsibility, to come up with its own response. On the other hand, according to this view, the current City Manager may appear to be more personable and immediately responsive to citizens because he acts more quickly, with less delay for thorough researching of a problem.

In fact, City officials appear generally favorable to SPD’s performance, even though not every aspect of policing satisfies them. For example, questions have been raised this past year concerning patrol management—specifically, how to ensure accountability by patrol officers for the 40-20-40 time allocation they are supposed to follow, specifically for the time available between calls for service, given that not all officers are equally motivated yet they do have considerable discretion on the job.

One thrust that may come the way of the City from local police may originate not from SPD, but instead from the newly formed Savannah Police Officers Alliance. Georgia courts have ruled that the City is not required to recognize a police organization for purposes of collective bargaining: this has weakened any possible police union activity in Savannah to date. After acting in concert with other organizations during the last four years, in February of 1997, the Savannah Police Officers Alliance formally affiliated, through the Georgia Conference of Police and Sheriffs, and National Coalition of Public Safety Officers, with Local 3200 of the CWA. Apart from seeking a change in the law to permit collective bargaining, SPOA is focussing primarily upon issues that have to do with working conditions, promotions, grievance procedures (they are seeking legal representation), and policies that apply to police as City employees (such as driving and pay policies). Approximately 150 of SPD’s 350 rank and file officers are members of SPOA. At the present time, this organization does not offer real opposition to the changes in strategy of SPD, or to the City.

The Chatham County District Attorney’s Office (headed for over twenty years by Spencer Lawton) prosecutes all misdemeanors and felonies in the county. As a result, assistant district attorneys work closely with SPD in myriad ways: through the Domestic Violence Unit, the Sex Crimes Unit, in homicide investigations, on various task forces, as well as on particular cases being prosecuted. Savannah’s “small town” milieu has lent itself to police and prosecutors basically being on good terms, through long-established personal relationships, according to prosecutors.

When SPD decentralized its patrol operations in 1991, those attorneys who knew the Department best noticed some immediate changes:

perhaps most critically, they put people in charge of particular areas . . . . I noticed immediately I could get a lot more action out of individual precinct people. The Captain of Precinct 2, perhaps our most dangerous and violent area, who was at first Captain Cross . . . you’d call down there, and he’d know about the homicide. He’d know who the heck answered the call . . . what some of the problems were. When some big shot’s wife got punched out in our large central park here, Forsyth Park, darned if he didn’t know about it that afternoon. And he told me to come down there to start working on the case . . . he knew it was his problem and now he had to get on it. So that difference I noticed, because of what I do, immediately you know, the breakout of cases.

The other thing was the street guys who really drive each department—the guys who ride the street are actually the police. They were told, “This is our precinct.” They’re in sort of a not entirely friendly competition with each other . . . you don’t want to hear your precinct is the screwball one. A surprising number of them can rattle off an astounding amount of information about their small part of the city . . . . They could pull you off to the side during the year and tell you, “You know who this guy is, don’t you? He runs that drug house on East 36th Street.”

In several instances, SPD officers have approached assistant district attorneys for assistance in solving some type of problem. For example, a corporal in Precinct Four noticed that both in his work as a police officer, and on his off-duty employment in security for a department store, he was seeing an “astounding” number of bad checks. He approached an assistant district attorney who handled bad checks in court to ask for legal help, and the two of them developed a program in which they would go out together and speak to 50-60 merchants at a time concerning how to handle checks and what actions they should take to prevent or deal with bad checks. The project turned into a community-wide effort that proved very helpful to merchants.

Representatives of social service organizations in the City who were interviewed also report that SPD has become a good partner: they especially appreciate SPD’s willingness to share data. Planning and Research Coordinator Brian Renner is singled out frequently as being especially adept at presenting and interpreting information for other people. “This is especially helpful when it comes to particular neighborhoods—they are more open than a lot of city administrations and police departments about just laying it out. There’s not a great deal of ‘How can we make this really bad picture look a little bit better...’ [w]hich ... is really important to people remaining invested in making change.”

Changing the Culture of Policing within SPD
How far has Savannah come in changing from within, from line officers to the top? “Grumblers” on the line say maybe 10-15% of officers have “bought in” to problem solving and community-oriented policing and do it willingly and well; several sergeants and lieutenants offer figures between 30 and 40%; those in top management are more likely to advance a higher number—say 50-60%. As these numbers indicate, a new culture may be evolving, but it has not completely taken hold yet.

Nevertheless, there are strong proponents of the Department’s changing strategy at every level of the organization, from line officers up. One sergeant who has been involved in several POP projects explains

I think what turns most of us around is just seeing it done . . . you kind of go through phases. Everybody is resistant to change—that’s natural . . . and gradually you resign yourself to it ‘cause it’s there, and it’s not going away and then ultimately you accept it once you start doing it. What is important . . . is having supervisors that have bought into it very enthusiastically and who understand what it means to do a project. That’s probably the most important thing.

Certainly the ethos that guides SPD has changed: whether they agree with COP and POP or not, officers at every level recognize that the Chief and most of upper management support COP and POP and are prepared to make its adoption and demonstration criteria for advancing within the organization. Those who resist must come to terms with the reality that they probably will not move up. If the number of employees leaving the Department is any indication, then officers have gradually become more satisfied with their job. The attrition rate in the Department, for all reasons including retirement, resignation and dismissals, has decreased over the years, from 12.0% in 1985; to 10.9% in 1990; 9.0% in 1993; and 6.1% in 1995. Resignations have tended to be higher among recent hires (43% of these are officers with one to five years of service); and dismissals also have tended to occur more frequently for officers newer to the force (63% are officers with less than one year of service). There appears to be little variation in the length of service for either resignations or dismissals over the years.

Among those who have adopted COP and POP, some line officers and sergeants report that their efforts are being hampered by the fact that a few mid and upper-level officers do not themselves understand problem solving sufficiently to be fully supportive of those line officers engaging in it. Furthermore, not all agree with how COP and POP have been implemented:

an unfortunate by-product of the way we have structured community-oriented policing is basically telling people you are not going to get promoted . . . the road to advancement is through participation in COP and POP, and you have to do a POP project, and you have to submit this bound copy, and videos, and then they have awards for problem-oriented policing . . . . I wish there was a way [the officers] . . . could embrace it and adopt it and feel ownership of it without it being shoved on them . . . .

For those not assigned to a regular beat—who “float ” constantly, working the busiest beats from 4pm to midnight, driving from call to call—the opportunity, and even incentive, to do a POP project seems remote. It is not clear whether these officers are resistant, or simply overwhelmed by the job priority that appears to have been thrust upon them—responding to calls for service. In fact, “lack of time” is heard far more often than words of determined resistance from officers not doing much in the way of problem solving. It appears that POP projects are completed much more frequently by officers assigned to special units, lending credence to the claim that beat officers do not have the time to respond to calls for service and also work on POP projects. As Major Lyght points out: “For the beat officer, free time comes in small chunks of ten minutes here and twenty minutes there. When your primary job is responding to calls for service, it is difficult to do POP. And we understand that. It is an issue we are still grappling with. But on the other hand, the concept of POP needs to be present in all that we do.”

While a meaningful POP project may take a serious time commitment, many officers do not believe that time constraints preclude COP:

Query (from the researcher): “is that a real tension, responding to calls for service versus getting out there and spending more time in the community, patrolling, talking with people?”

Response (from an officer): “No, I don’t see it that way. We are a... police department that doesn’t expect much of its officers other than showing up…[but] there is a whole lot more that can be done in an eight hour day than to ride cop calls and write two reports, and we are expecting that of officers...and they know that’s what’s expected. Every year the expectation rises just a little bit higher, so I don’t see that there is any tension. We’re just telling people, this is your job, go and do your job.... There’s a balance. Yeah, you’ve got to ride emergency calls first, there’s also a lot of times on emergency calls, interestingly enough, to interact with people in a friendly way even standing over a body…you can still, by your body language, by speaking to people, do community-oriented things right there….

By late 1997, SPD managers were laying plans to improve COP further. Precinct captains were considering the re-alignment of beat boundaries to better coincide with neighborhood boundaries (rather than being designed to equalize call for service workload without regard for neighborhood boundaries). Such a re-alignment would match up Savannah’s 99 neighborhoods with the 28 beats—with some beats containing several neighborhoods. The rationale, as expressed by Captain Lovett of Precinct Two, is “residents don’t ask ‘who is the officer that rides my beat,’ but ‘who is the officer responsible for my neighborhood?’” Beats often contained parts of three different neighborhoods and vice versa, neighborhoods were part of three different beats. In February 1998, Precinct Two became the first precinct to re-align beat boundaries with neighborhood boundaries in an effort to be more responsive to neighborhood problems. The Neighborhood Beat Approach (NBA), as Captain Lovett has called it, now has beat officers assigned to specific neighborhoods and each sergeant is responsible for the problems in one or more neighborhoods.

1 I wish to thank Brian Renner of the Savannah Police Department for assistance with data collection at all stages of this project, and for his helpful insights concerning the City’s role in the development of community policing in Savannah.

2 City of Savannah, Police Department, Bureau of Public Development, and Bureau of Management Services, “Comprehensive Community Crime Control Strategy,” August 30, 1991. See also “Executive Summary,” June 20, 1991.

3 Michael E. Donahue, “A Comprehensive Program to Combat Violent Crime: The Savannah Experience,” The Police Chief, September, 1993, p. 12.

4 Jeff Young, “Community Policing in Savannah, Georgia,” Themes and Variations in Community Policing: Case Studies in Community Policing. Washington, D.C.: Police Executive Research Forum, 1996, p. 80.

5 Id. at 77-79.

6 In spite of the indictment (during the course of data collection) of ten current and former officers on drug charges following a nearly two-year investigation, there was little animosity expressed toward the Department. Questions focused instead on why all those indicted were African-American, and raised issues concerning the fairness of the investigation.

7 Savannah Police Department, Community-Oriented Policing: The Savannah Experience, May 1996, p. 16.

8 1990 U.S. Census.

9 Richard H. Haunton, “Law and Order in Savannah, 1850-1860,” The Georgia Historical Quarterly, Vol. LVI, No. 1 (Spring, 1972), p. 2.

10 Haunton, p.14.

11 Haunton, p. 15.

12 Hubert Williams and Patrick V. Murphy cite J. F. Richardson in pointing out that Savannah was also one of several southern cities which “provided for combined foot and mounted patrols to prevent slaves from congregating and to repress any attacks upon the racial and social status quo,” and suggest that the first modern-style policing actually occurred as these “slave patrols.” See Williams and Murphy, “The Evolving Strategy of Police: A Minority View.” Perspectives on Policing No. 13 (Jan. 1990), National Institute of Justice, U.S. Dept. of Justice, and Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, p. 3, citing J. F. Richardson, Urban Police in the United States, Port Washington, New York, National University Publications (1974), p. 19.

13 Policemen’s Benevolent Society, Savannah, Georgia. “History of the Savannah Police Department.” 1897.

14 Savannah Evening Press, November 19, 1941.

15 The 1998 Budget shows a sworn strength of 401 officers at SPD, plus another 15 officers assigned to a multi-jurisdictional agency, the Chatham-Savannah Counter-Narcotics Team.

16 There are 91 full-time civilians and another 52 part-time school crossing guards.

17 Jeff Young, “Community Policing in Savannah, Georgia,” in Themes and Variations in Community Policing: Case Studies of Community Policing, Police Executive Research Forum, 1996, p. 71.

18 With this process, other law enforcement executives from throughout the nation participate in a joint interview process, with common questions asked of all candidates. The assessors score responses.

19 See David M. Kennedy, “Neighborhood Revitalization: Lessons from Savannah and Baltimore,” in Communities: Mobilizing Against Crime, Making Partnerships Work, National Institute of Justice Journal, August 1996, p. 13.

20 The Comprehensive Community Crime Control Strategy also won an award from Public Technology, Inc., in 1992.

21 Comprehensive Community Crime Control Strategy, p. 243.

22 The agency is actually a state-created entity, pursued by its local founders to secure some of the powers of a State Authority.

23 In 1996, another organization was formed, the Historic District Residents Association, in part because several residents felt that the other organizations catered too much to business interests and not enough to resident needs. By 1998, the HDRA has established itself as a significant voice downtown.

24 While pre-1900 structures exist throughout the central city, the term “historic district” usually refers to the 2.2-square mile National Landmark District recognized by the National Park Service.

25 Cops on the Block began around 1993 as a program that subsidized rehabilitation costs of substandard single-family dwellings for sale to Savannah police officers in an effort to increase presence and commitment to blighted areas. The program soon developed a bad reputation among SPD officers (would-be purchasers) for shoddy workmanship in the units.

26 City of Savannah, 1985 and 1990 Budget Statements.

27 Note of clarification: the Budget counts the 52 part-time school crossing guards in terms of their full-time equivalent (FTE) which is 19.76 positions.

28 In SPD, the general term “Crime Study” has come to refer to the Comprehensive Community Crime Control Strategy of 1991—an indication of the importance of this study.

29 See City of Savannah, Georgia, 1985 and 1990 Budgets, Police Bureau.

30 Crime Control Strategy, p. 134.

31 International Association of Chiefs of Police, Police Management Division. A Comprehensive Management and Operational Survey of the Savannah Police Department, Savannah, Georgia. December 1983.

32 Reynolds cites in particular James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling, “The Police and Neighborhood Safety: Broken Windows,” Atlantic Monthly, March 1982, pp. 29-38; John E. Eck, and William Spelman, “Problem-Solving in Newport News,” Washington, D.C.: Police Executive Research Forum and the National Institute of Justice, 1987; Herman Goldstein, Problem-Oriented Policing, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1990; Malcolm K. Sparrow, Mark H. Moore, and David M. Kennedy, Beyond 911: A New Era for Policing, Basic Books, Inc., 1990; Robert Trojanowicz and Bonnie Bucqueroux, Community Policing: A Contemporary Perspective, Cincinnati, Ohio: Anderson Publishing Co., 1990; Jerome H. Skolnick and David H. Bayley, The New Blue Line: Police Innovation in Six American Cities, New York: Macmillan, 1986.

33 SPD investigators periodically produce a printout of locations hit more than once in a short time period.

34 SPD’s Public Information Officer Mark Keller explains, “Homicides are key to shaping public perception. One homicide has the same impact as fifteen aggravated assaults in terms of negative publicity.”

35 Crime Control Strategy, pp. 2-4, 10, 13-14.

36 Crime Control Strategy, p. 19.

37 The term “precinct” did not replace the word “zone” until the implementation phase.

38 Jeff Young, “Community Policing in Savannah, Georgia,” p. 72.

39 See “Comprehensive Community Crime Control Strategy,” Aug. 30, 1991, pp. 225-227; Michael E. Donahue, “A Comprehensive Program to Combat Violent Crime: The Savannah Experience,” The Police Chief, Sept. 1993, p.14.

40 See, for example, Michael Homans, “Add Officers, Reorganize City Police, Report Urges,” Savannah Evening Press, June 20, 1991, p. 1A; Michael Homans, “Report to Call for ‘Radical’ Police Changes,” Savannah Evening Press, June 7, 1991, p. 1A; “Support Crime Plan,” Editorial, Savannah Evening Press, June 22, 1991, p. 6A.

41 As Brian Renner recalls, in typical Mendonsa style, the Crime Study was full of data. However, one chart in particular hit home for those working with the data: it was one of a series of summary charts portraying the extent of conditions in each area, its percent of the city’s total, and the area’s ranking as compared with other Service Areas. This chart showed clearly that Area C had 4.2 percent of the city’s geographic area and 18.8 percent of the city’s population, but over 30 percent of most types of crime incidents (including 41 percent of street robberies, 43 percent of drug offenses, and 41 percent of weapons offenses), 46 percent of the city’s substandard housing, 54 percent of the city’s vacant housing, 24 percent of the unemployment, 30 percent of child abuse cases, and 32 percent of the incidences of teenage pregnancy. See Table 32, Problem Conditions, Service Area C, Comprehensive Community Crime Control Strategy, June 20, 1991, p. 110.

42 Savannah Police Department, 1991 Annual Report.

43 Crime Control Strategy, p. 181.

44 Young, “Community Policing in Savannah, Georgia, ” p. 72.

45 Michael E. Donahue, “A Comprehensive Program to Combat Violent Crime: The Savannah Experience,” The Police Chief, Sept. 1993, pp. 21-22.

46 These were the State Parole Office, State Probation Office, U.S. Attorney’s Office, Drug Enforcement Administration, Silent Witness, the U.S. Marshall’s Service, and the Chatham County District Attorney’s Office.

47 Data are from a grant application to the State of George, Drug Control and System Improvement Act, April 27, 1995.

48 All activities are tracked by entering the type of activity—call for service or officer-initiated activity—into the Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) computer. Possible inaccuracies result from officers not radioing in when they clear a call or initiate a new activity, or the dispatcher not making the computer entry when it is called for.

49 Pilkington, Cyndra A. “Cleaning the Streets: Savannah’s Prostitution Task Force,” The Police Chief, April 1997, p. 165.

50 SPD is critical of the attention paid to the conviction rate, implying that the District Attorney wants “easy” cases (thus few arrests are made of buyers and small-time street corner dealers) and tries to plea bargain cases in order to avoid expending a lot of resources on trial cases.

51 At the time of data collection, Savannah’s Police Department had officially received and accepted two COPS grants—COPS Ahead, and a COPS Domestic Violence grant. The Department did not apply for other grants because the City could not raise the matching funds (specifically, the COPS More grant in 1995, to get a pilot system started in the use of mobile data terminals: the City considered the cost not only of the matching funds, but the cost of expanding the project city-wide; they did apply in 1996, but did not receive funding). In addition, SPD was awarded a COPS Universal grant in 1996 to fund ten additional officers; however, the City decided it could not afford the 25% matching funds. SPD had plans to use these additional ten officers on foot patrol in the downtown area. In December 1997, the Department was notified of having received another COPS grant for Advancing Community Policing, to be used to develop further develop management skills, training and organization for COP.

52 University of Charleston (SC). Institute for Public Affairs and Policy Studies. “Evaluation Report: Savannah Weed and Seed, Year 2.” April 1997.

53 The 1998 Proposed Budget shows that total General Fund Revenues decreased by 5.1% in 1997. Due to changes in the State’s distribution, sales tax revenues decreased by 18%, causing a loss of $4.6 million in revenues. The total City budget decreased by 4.0%, and the Police Department’s budget decreased by 1.9%.

54 Armstrong Atlantic Professor Mike Donahue heads the evaluation team. Four target areas have been established to receive large increases in the number of traffic stops: results, in particular the impact on crime and accidents, are being evaluated by the Public Service Center of Armstrong Atlantic University. While some of the grant funds the evaluation, the remaining monies ($200,000) were used to purchase traffic enforcement equipment. The NHTSA hopes to test the hypothesis that traffic enforcement not only reduces traffic problems, but is also an effective strategy for reducing street crime.

55 Community-Oriented Policing: The Savannah Experience, May 1996, p. 8.

56 Vance McLaughlin and Michael E. Donahue, “Training for Community-Oriented Policing,” in Issues in Community Policing, P. C. Kratcoski and D. Dukes, eds., ACJS/Anderson Publishing Co., 1993, pp. 125-138; Vance McLaughlin and Michael E. Donahue, “Problem-Oriented Policing: Assessing the Process,” Justice Professional, Vol. 10, 1997, pp. 47-59.

57 McLaughlin, Vance, and Michael E. Donahue. “Training for Community-Oriented Policing,” in Issues in Community Policing, P. C. Kratcoski and D. Dukes, eds. ACJS/Anderson Publishing Co., 1993, pp. 125-138.

58 The new 800 MHz radio system, to be operational on January 15, 1998, is the culmination of nearly five years of study and planning. A 1993 study by the City on communications had found that channels were overcrowded and subject to interference, had limited range, and cross-communication was often impossible during major emergencies. A follow-up study by an outside consultant reached the same conclusion, and recommended conversion to an 800 MHz system.

59 One of the precinct’s officers, Corporal Ayinde Afiba, is working on developing a program to involve local businesses with youth, tentatively called the BUOY Program (Businesses United in their Outreach to Youth). It is an attempt to make youth develop an appreciation for business owners by meeting them personally via tours of the businesses. The idea is that youth will be less likely to vandalize or burglarize a “friend” and may even learn something about the business world.

60 Neighborhood Service Coordinators are City employees from the Neighborhood Services Department whose sole mission is to foster the growth of and citizen participation in neighborhood associations, and to facilitate solutions for problems identified by local residents.

61 Major William L.D. Lyght, Memo to Precinct Commanders, 3/19/97.