De-merger possible in Savannah

This column reports a vote by the Savannah, Georgia City Council to begin the process of ending their police merger with Chatham County, following the county’s failure to meet deadlines associated with a recommended staffing increase. The city and county merged their police departments in 2005 but otherwise maintained separate governments.

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5 Responses to “De-merger possible in Savannah”

  1. Scott Prell Says:

    This is a link to the police study that is referenced on the merger:

    http://www.savannahga.gov/PoliceStudy

  2. Scott Prell Says:

    Police department mergers are easy. To make sure the merger is fair, maintains agreements, delivers proper services, and is a cost savings in the future is difficult and almost impossible to fulfill.

    The most concerning part of consolidation is de-consolidation if a party isn’t satisfied. The Savannah-Chatham Police Department has been in existence since 2005. I don’t think they will de-consolidate. Initially it will be too costly to do so.

    The City would need a police building unless the one they left in 2005 is still used, how would the City get the necessary personnel (civilian and sworn), cars, radios, dispatch center, etc.

    I think the vote to de-consolidate was a strong signal that they weren’t happy with the current police situation. This will move the county to be more responsive and the merger will continue to exist.

    This would be a great case study for de-consolidation.

  3. Gary Cordner Says:

    Thanks Scott, good points. In your first line, did you mean “aren’t easy”?

    Here in PA we have a slightly different but related phenomenon called regional PDs. These are typically 2+ municipalities agreeing to form a joint PD, then overseen by a board with one representative from each municipality, and an annual budget process usually based on workload. It’s different from the Savannah situation mainly in that here in PA, these municipalities that join regionals are usually pretty small.

    I mention it because they also dissolve on a pretty regular basis, or at least one or more municipalities pull out for some reason. It’s usually about money — a municipality feels it isn’t getting its money’s worth and/or the regional PD’s budget keeps going up every year and eventually some members get sticker shock.

    Another factor that adds to the turbulence is that a municipality can get the state police for free. It’s a lower level of service (probably slower response time and they won’t respond to every little thing) but it’s free.

    • Scott Prell Says:

      I was trying to make two points. My first point was that making a decision to merge police departments is easy because at the most basic level all that is needed for the merger is the political leaders to agree to it. The process of the merger is complicated and difficult. I mention this because the prevailing mantra for merging police departments is that more can be done for/with less. I disagree with this type of thinking but at the top levels of policing, academia, and politics it’s blasphemy to say police mergers don’t make sense.

      Secondly I believe it is rare for police departments to un-merge after a complete merger has taken place. This is more true the longer the merger has been in place.

      Finally I think a merger can take place and be successful when and only when there is a comprehensive plan and those involved have skin in the game. A comprehensive police department merger plan can take many forms but there must be an extensive list of goals, which include crime reduction, cost savings, service provided, and provisions for police management and politicians when goals are not obtained. This would provide a realistic evaluation on the success of the merger.

  4. Gary Cordner Says:

    I see your points. I agree with you that mergers don’t usually save any money. The related argument that bigger is somehow inherently better is flawed too, in my view.

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